Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "The Location Of Culture BHABHA"

See other formats


Homi K. Bhabha 

London and New York 

First published 1994 
by Routledge 
11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE 

Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada 
by Routledge 
29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 

Reprinted 1994 

© 1994 Homi K. Bhabha 

Phototypeset in 10/12pt Palatino by Intype, London 
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Redwood Books 
Printed on acid free paper 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or 
reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, 
mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter 
invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any 
information storage or retrieval system, without permission in 
writing from the publishers. 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data 
Bhabha, Homi K. 
The location of culture/Homi K. Bhabha. 
p. cm. 

Includes bibliographical references and index. 

1. Literature, Modem — 19 th century — History and criticism. 

2. Literature, Modem — 20th century — History and criticism. 
3. Imperialism in literature. 4. Colonies in literature. 

5. Developing countries in literature. 6. Culture conflict in 
literature. 7. Politics and culture. I. Title. 
PN761.H43 1993 
808'.066001-dc20 93-10757 

ISBN 0-415-01635-5 (hbk) 
ISBN 0-415-05406-0 (pbk) 

Naju and Kharshedji Bhabha 


Acknowledgements ix 

< Introduction: Locations of culture 1 

^jfThe commitment to theory "X *~j 19 

^^Interrogating identity: Frantz Fanon and the postcolonial 

prerogative * 40 

The other question: Stereotype, discrimination and the 

discourse of colonialism 66 

Of mimicry and man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse 85 

fsiy civility 93 

Signs taken for wonders: Questions of ambivalence and 

authority under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817 102 

7 Articulating the archaic: Cultural difference and colonial \ 
nonsense 123 

8 DissemiNation: Time, narrative and the margins of the 

modem nation 139 

9 The postcolonial and the postmodern: The question of 

agency 171 

L0 By bread alone: Signs of violence in the mid-nineteenth 

century 198 

K How newness enters the world: Postaodemjpac^^ , 
^postcolonial times and the trials of cultural trarisja^nt*, V ■ 1 212 

^Conclusion: 'Race', time and the revision of modernity 236 

Notes 257 

Index 277 


The memory of gratitude is not best served by the neat lists of people 
and places that acknowledgements can accommodate. The help we 
receive is a more haphazard affair. It gives me particular pleasure to 
note that most of those mentioned below have sat at our kitchen table. 
In that spirit academic acquaintance has often turned into enduring 

The evolution of this book owes a personal debt to a group of interro- 
gators and co-conspirators: Stephan Feuchtwang for asking the 
unthought question; James Donald for the pleasures of precision, with- 
out saying 'precisely'; Robert Young for his fine readings and his toler- 
ance for telephone theory; and Gyan Prakash for insisting that 
scholarship must be leavened with style. 

I want here to acknowledge the pioneering oeuvre of Edward Said 
which provided me with a critical terrain and an intellectuaT project; 
Ga yatri Spivak ls courage and brilliance, which has set high standards 
of excitement; and Stuart HaJTs work which has been exemplary for me 
in combining political acuity with an inspiring vision of inclusion. 
Ranajit Guha's and the subaltern scholars have provided me with the 
most stimulating recent example of historical revision. Terry Eagleton's 
early exhortations at Oxford to stay tuned to the materialist mode have 
proved to be sturdy advice. 

The work of Toni Morrison has been formative in my thinking on 
narrative and historical temporality; many of my ideas on 'migrant' and 
minority space have been sparked off by the novels of Salman Rushdie. 
I owe these remarkable writers a significant personal and mteTEcfual 
debt. In allowing me to quote from two of his inspirational poems Derek 
J^aicafiLhas shown great generosity. So too has Anish Kapoor, whose 
profound exploration of sculptural space has provided an image for the 

Stephen Greenblatt has been exemplary in his ability, over the years, 
to forge a shared project through a subtle and sympathetic dialogue. 
Gillian Beer and John Barrell opened up the eighteenth and nineteenth 



centuries to postcolonial questions. Joan Copjec instantly grasped what I 
meant by 'mimicry' and helped me to read Lacan. The Essex Conference 
Collective and Peter Hulme, in particular, are responsible for creating 
some of the most productive and collaborative events that I have partici- 
pated in. Henry Louis Gates and W. J. T. Mitchell invited me to contrib- 
ute to Race, Writing and Difference, providing the sense of a new 
community of scholarship. At an early stage, Joan Scott, Elizabeth Weed, 
Kaja Silverman, Rey Chow and Evelyn Higginbotham gave my work a 
most useful 'going over' at the Pembroke Center Seminar, Brown Uni- 
versity. Houston Baker generously invited me to deliver the Richard 
Wright lectures at the Center for Black Literature and Culture at the 
University of Pennsylvania, a unique intellectual opportunity and 

My 'home' institution during a visit to Australia was the University 
of Queensland; and I thank John Frow, Helen Tiffin, Alan Lawson, Jeff 
Minson and the participants of the Advanced Theory seminar. The 
National Humanities Centre, Canberra, was also generous with its sup- 
port. David Bennett, Terry Collits and Dipesh Chakrabarty mix the 
perfect conference cocktail: two parts pleasure to one part business, lots 
of stirring (up) and shaking (down)! Meaghan Morris and Sneja Gunew 
have, over the years, helped me to rethink perspectives and priorities. 

My tenure at the universities of Pennsylvania and Princeton provided 
me with the time I needed to complete this work. The contribution of 
my graduate students in both places was invaluable. 

The English Department and the Center for Black Literature at Penn 
invited me to take up the Steinberg Visiting Professorship. My thanks to 
John Richetti, Houston Baker, Wendy Steiner, Stephen Nicholls, Marjorie 
Levinson, Arjun Appadurai, Carol Breckenridge, Deidre David, Manthia 
Diawara and Peter Stallybrass. 

At Princeton, Elaine Showalter was a most generous host who made 
possible an exciting year. Victor Brombert who could turn, without 
missing a beat, from bel canto to the Gauss seminars, was an invaluable 
support. Natalie Zemon Davis provided insightful and constructive cri- 
tiques. Arcadio Diaz-Quifiones never failed to temper instruction with 
delight. Arnold Rampersad was generous with his time and advice. 
Cornel West's presence was an inspiration to re-think 'race'; I learned 
much from attending Nell Painter and Cornel West's seminars on the 
African American Intellectual tradition. 

I owe a great debt to a group of scholars and friends in the English 
department at Princeton who contributed in unchartable ways to the 
development of these ideas: Andrew Ross, Wahneema Lubiano, Eduardo 
Cadava, Diana Fuss, Tom Keenan and Barbara Browning. 

It gives me particular pleasure to acknowledge the crucial influence 
of ideas that come from outside (or beside) the Academy. David Ross 



and Elisabeth Sussman of the Whitney Museum in New York have 
provided me with challenging opportunities. Alberta Arthurs, Tomas 
Ybarra Frausto and Lynn Szwaja at the Rockefeller Foundation have 
taught me to think of cultural studies in new intellectual and social 

Other than specific events and institutions, the contingent develop- 
ment of ideas and dialogues provides a skein of people and places. My 
students at the University of Sussex were active participants in the 
developments of many themes and ideas. Amongst many supportive 
colleagues, Laura Chrissman, Jonathan Dollimore, Frank Gloversmith, 
Tony Inglis, Gabriel Josipovici, Cora Kaplan, Stuart Laing, Partha Mitter, 
Jacqueline Rose, Alan Sinfield, Jenny Taylor, Cedric Watts and Nancy 
Wood have been particularly generous with their help at various times. 
There are others, close friends and intellectual companions, who deserve 
both the gratitude of the daily grind and the shared pleasure of many 

Parveen Adams, Lisa Appignanesi, Emily Apter, Dorothy Bednarowska, 
Ellice Begbie, Andrew Benjamin, Lauren Berlant, Jan Brogden, Benjamin 
Buchloh, Victor Burgin, Abena Busia, Judith Butler, Bea Campbell, Iain 
Chambers, Ron Clark, Lidia Curd, Nick Dirks, Maud Ellmann, Grant 
Farred, John Forrester, David Frankel, Tschome Gabriel, Cathy Gallagher, 
Paul Gilroy, Sepp Gumbrecht, Abdul Janmohamed, Isaac Julian, Adil 
Jussawalla, Ann Kaplan, Mary Kelly, Ernesto Laclau, David Lloyd, Lisa 
Lowe, Ann McClintock, Phil Mariani, Pratap Mehta, Liz Moore, Rob 
Nixon, Nicos Papastergiadis, Benita Parry, Ping hui Liao, Helena Reckitt, 
Bruce Robbins, Irene Sheard, Stephen Sleaman, Val Smith, Jennifer Stone, 
Mitra Tabrizian, Mathew Teitelbaum, Tony Vidler, Gauri Viswanathan, 
Yvonne Wood. Zareer Masani has weathered many storms with me 
and Julian Henriques has often brought good weather. John Phillips and 
Rebecca Walkowitz helped prepare the manuscript for publication with 
efficiency and understanding. 

I have enjoyed a most cooperative relationship with my publishers. 
Janice Price has been a friend and discussant at all stages of this 
work. Her foresight has meant an enormous amount to me. The elegance 
of Talia Rodgers' style extends from the cover to the content; working 
with her has been most pleasurable. Sue Bilton has shown resources of 
patience and perseverance that have taught me a lesson in perfecti- 

Although our lives are now lived in different countries my parents 
have been a source of the deepest sustenance. To Hilla and Nadir 
Dinshaw I offer my heartfelt thanks for countless considerations during 
the period of writing. I am deeply indebted to Anna MacWhinnie for 
making possible many opportunities for work and play. My children 



Ishan, Satya and Leah have been true companions. They have never 
respected the sanctity of the study. Their interruptions have been fre- 
quent and irreplaceable. Beyond this book or any other, I thank Jacque- 
line for sharing in the dissatisfaction that is the spur to thought, and 
for bearing the anxiety of incompletion that accompanies the act of 

Homi Bhabha 
London, 1993 

The author and publishers would like to thank the following for per- 
mission to reproduce copyrighted material: 

"The commitment to theory' is reprinted from Questions of Third Cinema 
edited by J. Pines and P. Willemen (1989) with the kind permission of 
the British Film Institute. 

'Interrogating identity' is reprinted from The Anatomy of Racism edited 
by David Goldberg (1990) with the kind permission of The University 
of Minnesota Press. 

"The other question' is reprinted from The Sexual Subject: A Screen 
Reader in Sexuality edited by M Merck (1992) with the kind permission 
of Routledge. 

'Of mimicry and man' (October: Anthology, Boston, Mass.: MTT Press, 
1987) and 'Sly civility' {October, Winter 1985, MIT Press) are reprinted 
with kind permission from October. 

'Signs taken for wonders' is reprinted with the kind permission of 
Chicago University Press from Race, Writing and Difference: Special Issue 
of the Journal edited by Henry Louis Gates Jnr, Critical Inquiry (1985). 

'Articulating the archaic' is reprinted from Literary Theory Today edited 
by Peter Collier and Helga Gaya-Ryan (1990: Polity Press) with the kind 
permission of Blackwell. 

"The postcolonial and the postmodern' is reprinted from Redrawing the 
Boundary of Literary Study in English edited by Giles Gunn and Stephen 
Greenblatt (1992) with the kind permission of the Modem Languages 

' "Race", time and revision of modernity' is reprinted with kind per- 
mission from Neocolonialism, edited by Robert Young, Oxford Literary 
Review 13 (1991) pp. 193-219. © 1991 Oxford Literary Review. 



Lines from the song 'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive' are reproduced with 
the kind permission of International Music Publications Ltd. 


The architecture of this work is rooted in the 
temporal. Every human problem must be 
considered from the standpoint of time. 

(Frantz Fanon: Black Skin, White Masks) 

You've got to 

'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the pos-i-tive, 
E-li-mi-nate the neg-a-tive', 
Latch on to the af-firm-a-tive, 
Don't mess with Mister In-be-tween. 

(refrain from 'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive' by Johnny Mercer) 

Locations of culture 

A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks 
recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins its presenting. 

Martin Heidegger, 'Building, dwelling, thinking' 


It is the trope of our times to locate the question of culture in the realm 
of the beyond. At the century's edge, we are less exercised by annihilation 

- the death of the author - or epiphany - the birth of the 'subject'. Our 
ex istence today is marked by a tenebrous sense of survival, living on 
the borderlines of the 'presen t', for which there seems t o be no pro per 
name other than the current and controversial shiftiness of th e prefi x 
'gost': postmodernism, postcolonialism, postfeminism. . . . 

The 'bey ond' is neither a new horizon , nor a leav ing b ehind of th e 
past . . . . Beginnings and~endings ^naybe the sustaining myths of 
the middle years; but in the fin de siecle, we find ourselves in the momen t 
'of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of 
difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion 
Sand exclusion. Forjhgreis a sense of disorientation, a disturbance of 
jpirection, in the ! 'bevond'A an exploratory, restless movement Jcaught so 
fwell in the French rendition of the words au-dela - here a ria there, on 
'jllLsides^/?^ — 

Them n vp away_fr om the singularities of 'class' or 'gender' as primar y 
conceptual_ and organizational categories, has resu lted in an awareness 
of the iubject positions - of race, gender, generation, institutiona l 
lgrgtvji gf»"ip^ti*V?i locale, sexual orientation - that inhabit any claim 
to identity in the modern w»rlH What is theoretically innovative, and 
politically crucial, is the need to think beyond narratives of originary 
and initial subjectivities and to focus on those moments or processes 
that are produced irfflt he articulation of cultural_djtfergnces. Thesejln- 
_ hetween^ spaeefrpfevide the terrain for elaborating strategies of se irhood" 

- sjngular or communal - mat initiate new signs of identity, and innov- 



ative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the 
idea of society itself. 

It is in the emergence of the interstices - the overlap and displacement 
of domains of difference - that the intersubjective and E ollecthte »ypp"- 
enees of nationness, co mmunity interest, oxxultural value a re ne gotiated . 
H ow are subjects tormed 'in-between ', or in excess of, t he sum of th e 
' parts' of difference (usually intoned as race/class/gender, etc. )? How 
do strategies of representation or empowerment come to be formulated 
in the competing claims of communities where, despite shared histories 
of deprivation and discrimination, the exchange of values, meanings 
and priorities may not always be collaborative and dialogical, but may 
be profoundly antagonistic, conflictual and even incommensurable? 

The force of these questions is borne out by the 'language' of recent 
social crises sparked off by histories of cultural difference. Conflicts in 
South Central Los Angeles between Koreans, Mexican-Americans and 
African-Americans focus on the concept of 'disrespect' - a term forged 
on the borderlines of ethnic deprivation that is, at once, the sign of 
racialized violence and the symptom of social victimage. In the after- 
math of the The Satanic Verses affair in Great Britain, Black and Irish 
feminists, despite their different constituencies, have made common 
cause against the 'racialization of religion' as the dominant discourse 
through which the State represents their conflicts and struggles, however 
secular or even 'sexual' they may be. 

Terms of cultural engagement, whether antagonistic or affiliative, are 
produced performativelyfThe representation of difference must not be 
hastily_read as the reflection of pre-given ethnic or cultural traits set in 
the fixed tablet of tradition. The social articulation of difference, from the 
minority perspective, is a complex, on-going negotiation that seeks to 
autho rize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical trans- 
formation. The 'rigTtf^'sTgrilfy'iKHn-^^eTiphery'bf authorized power 
and privilege does, not depend on the persistence of tradition; it is 
resourced by the power of tradition to be reinscribed through the con- 
ditions of contingency and contradictoriness that attend upon the lives 
of those who are 'in the minority'. The jecognition t hat traditi on besto ws 
[is a partialform of identif ication. In restaging the past it introduces 
ot her, incommensurab je^uhuj^ tempofalitie s inlu lite inve it ti en-of-tra^ 
ditinn This process estranges any immediate access to an originary 
identity or a 'received' tradition. The borderline engagements of cultural 
difference may as often be consensual as conflictual; they may confound 
our definitions of tradition and modernity; realign the customary bound- 
aries between the private and the public, high and low; and challenge 
normative expectations of development and progress. ^ 

I wanted to make shapes or set up situations that are kind of 



open. . . . My work has a lot to do with a kind of fluidity, a_ 
movement back and forth, not making a claim to any specific or 
essenfiarway of being. 2 

Thus writes Renee Green, the African-American artist. She reflects on 
the need to understand cultural difference as the production of minority 
identities that 'split' - are estranged unto themselves - in the act of 
being articulated into a collective body: 

Multiculturalism doesn't reflect the complexity of the situation as 
I face it daily. ... It requires a person to step outside of him/ 
herself to actually see what he/she is doing. I don't want to 
condemn well-meaning people and say (like those T-shirts you can 
buy on the street) 'It's a black thing, you wouldn't understand.' 
To me that's essentialising blackness. 3 

Political empowerment, and the enlargement of the multiculturalist 
cause, come from posing questions of solidarity and community from 
the interstitial perspectivefSocial differences are not simply given to 
experience through an already authenticated cultural tradition; they are 
the signs of the emergence of co mmun ity envisaged as a project - at 
lonce a vision and a construction - that takes you 'beyond' yourself in 
prder to return, in a spirit of revision and reconstruction, to the political 
conditions of the present: ^ 

Even then, it's still a struggle for power between various groups 
within ethnic groups about what's being said and who's saying 
what, who's representing who? What is a community anyway? 
What is a black community? What is a Latino community? I have 
trouble with thinking of all these things as monolithic fixed cat- 
egories. 4 

If Renee Green's questions open up an interrogatory, interstitial space 
between the act of representation - who? what? where? - and the 
presence of community itself, then consider her own creative inter- 
vention within this in-between moment. Green's 'architectural' site- 
specific work, Sites of Genealogy (Out of Site, The Institute of 
Contemporary Art, Long Island City, New York), displays and displaces 
the binary lo^ic throiigh which, identities, of _^^^t^^__WK_^^v_ca^: 
structed - Black/White, Self /Other. Green makes a metaphor of the 
museum building itself, rather t an simply using the gallery space: 

I used architecture literally as a reference, using the attic, the 
boiler room, and the stairwell to make associations between certain 
binary divisions such as higher and lower and heaven and hell. 
The stairwell became a liminal space, a pathway between the 



upper and lower areas, each of which was annotated with plaques 
referring to blackness and whiteness. 5 

The stairwell as liminal space, in-between the designations of identity, 
becomes the process of symbolic interaction, the connective tissue that 
constructs the difference between upper and lower, black and white. 
The hither and thither of th e_stairwell , the tpmpnral mnvpmpnt and 
p assage that it allows, prevents ident itiesjitj3thjr_ejQ.d nf it frnrnsettling 
mto primordial polarities. Th is interstitial passage between fixed 
identifications opens up the possibility of a cultural hybridity that enter- 
tains difference without an assumed or imposed hierarchy: 

I always went back and forth between racial designations and 
designations from physics or other symbolic designations. All these 
things blur in some way. ... To develop a genealogy of the way 
colours and noncolours function is interesting to me. 6 

si g nifies spatial distanc e, marks progress, promise s the 
nnr intimati ons of exceeding the bar rier or boundary - 
the very act of goin g beyond - are ""kiiqwable, u nrepresentable, without 
a return- t o the 'present' w^ch^Jba-Jfap_piQcess of repetition r becomes 
disjunct and displaced .| T he imaginary of spatial distance - to live some- 
how beyond the bgH°r nf nv T Ktt - throws into relief the temporal, 
social differences that interrupt our collusive sense of cultural contempo- 
raneity.) The present can no Jonger be sjmply^rmsa^ed_^s_JLbreak_or ji 

our proximate self-presence, our public image, comes to be revealed Jor 
its d isconti n uities, its inequalities, its mino rities. Unlike the dead hand 
of history that tells the beads of sequential time like a rosary, seeking 
to establish serial, causal connections, we are now confronted with what 
WalteH^njamm describes as the blasting of a monadic moment from 
thfe-Jiomoge nous co urse of ^story, 'estabUshjng_a__concepiion x)f the 
^pres ent as the^ timprif thp~now"Y ~\ — 

If the jargon ot our times - postmodernity, postcoloniality, postfemin- 
ism - has any meaning at all, it does not lie in the popular use of 
the 'post' to indicate sequentially - o/iter-feminism; or polarity - anti- 
modernism. These terms that insistently gesture to the beyond, only 
embody its restless and revisionary energy if they transform the present 
into an expanded and ex-centric site of experience and empowerment. 
Tor instance, if the interest in postmodernism is limited to a celebration 
of the fragmentation of the 'grand narratives' of postenlightenment 
rationalism then, for all its intellectual excitement, it remains a pro- 
foundly parochial enterprise. 

The wider significance of the postmodern condition lies in the aware- 
ness that the epistemological 'limits' of those ethnocentric ideas are also 



ih§,saunciative boundaries of a range of other dissonant,.even dissident 
histories and voices - women, the colonized, minority groups, the bear- 
ers of policed sexualities. For the demography of the new international- 
ism is the history of postcolonial migration, the narratives of cultural 
and political diaspora, the major social displacements of peasant and 
aboriginal communities, the poetics of exile, the grim prose of political 
and economic refugees Jit is in this sense that the be, 
t he pla ce from which somethmg ^e,^m<i .i ts .pri!seudn^-4i^a 
fh^imila^^ ambivalent articulation of the -beyond that I 

jhay e drawn _caifcV^Always and ever differently the bridge escorts the 
phgering and hastening ways of men to and fro, so that they may get 

to other banks The bridge gathers as a passage that crosses.' 8 

^The very concepts of homogenous national cultures, the consensual 
or contiguous transmission of historical traditions, or 'organic' ethnic 
communities - as the grounds of cultural comparativism - are in a profound 
process of redefinition. The hideous extremity of Serbian nationalism 
proves that the very idea of a pure, 'ethnically cleansed' national identity 
can only be achieved through the death, literal and figurative, of the 
complex interweavings of history, and the culturally contingent border- 
lines of modem nationhood^ This side of the psychosis of patriotic 
fervour, I like to think, there is overwhelming evidence of a more 
transnational and translational sense of the hybridity of imagined com- 
munities. Contemporary Sri Lankan theatre represents the deadly con- 
flict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese through allegorical references 
to State brutality in South Africa and Latin America; the Anglo-Celtic 
canon of Australian literature and cinema is being rewritten from the 
perspective of Aboriginal political and cultural imperatives; the South 
African novels of Richard Rive, Bessie Head, Nadine Gordimer, John 
Coetzee, are documents of a society divided by the effects of apartheid 
that enjoin the international intellectual community to meditate on the 
unequal, assymetrical worlds that exist elsewhere; Salman Rushdie 
writes the fabulist historiography of post-Independence India and Paki- 
stan in Midnight's Children and Shame, only to remind us in 77k Satanic 
Verses that the truest eye may now belong to the migrant's double 
vision; Toni Morrison's Beloved revives the past oPslavery and its mur- 
derous rituals of possession and self-possession, in order to project a 
contemporary fable of a woman's history that is at the same time the 
narrative of an affective, historic memory of an emergent public sphere 
of men and women alike. 

What is striking about the 'new' internationalism is that Jhe_moye 
from the specific to the general, from the material to the metaphoric, is 
not a smooth passage of transition and transcendence. The 'middle 
passage' of contemporary culture, a s with slavery itself, is a process of 
displacement^and disjunction that does not totalize experience. Increas- 



ingly, 'national' cultures are being produced from the perspective of 
disenfranchised minorities. The most significant effect of this process is 
not the proliferation of 'alternative histories of the excluded' producing, 
as some would have it, a pluralist anarchy. What my examples show is 
the changed basis for making international connections. The currency 
of critical comparativism, or aesthetic judgement, is no longer the 
sovereignty of the national culture conceived as Benedict Anderson 
proposes as an 'imagined community' rooted in a 'homogeneous empty 
time' of modernity and progress. The great connective narratives of 
capitalism and class drive the engines of social reproduction, but do 
not, in themselves, provide a foundational frame for those modes of 
cultural identification and political affect that form around issues 
of sexuality, race, feminism, the lifeworld of refugees or migrants, or 
the deathly social destiny of AIDS. 

The testimony of my examples represents a radical revision in the 
concept of human community itself. What this geopolitical space may 
be, as a local or transnational reality, is being both interrogated and 
reinitiated. Feminism, in the 1990s, finds its solidarity as much in liber- 
atory narratives as in the painful ethical position of a slavewoman, 
Morrison's Sethe, in Beloved, who is pushed to infanticide. The body 
politic can no longer contemplate the nation's health as simply a civic 
virtue; it must rethink the question of rights for the entire national, 
and international, community, from the AIDS perspective. The Western 
metropole must confront its postcolonial history, told by its influx of 
postwar migrants and refugees, as an indigenous or native narrative 
internal to its national identity; and the reason for this is made clear in 
the stammering, drunken words of Mr 'Whisky' Sisodia from The Satanic 
Verses: 'The trouble with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history 
happened overseas, so they dodo don't know what it means.' 9 

"Postcoloniality, for its part, is a salutary reminder of the persistent 
'neo-colonial' relations within the 'new' world order and the multi- 
national division of labour. Such a perspective enables the authentication 
of histories of exploitation and the evolution of strategies of resistance. 
Beyond this, however, postcolonial critique bears witness to those coun- 
tries and communities - in the North and the South, urban and rural - 
constituted, if I may coin a phrase, 'otherwise than modernity'. Such 
cultures of a postcolonial contra-modernity may be contingent to mod- 
ernity, discontinuous or in contention with it, resistant to its oppressive, 
assimilationist technologies; but they also deploy the cultural hybridity 
of their borderline conditions to 'translate', and therefore reinscribe, the 
social imaginary of both metropolis and modernity. Listen to Guillermo 
Gomez-Pefia, the performance artist who lives, amongst other times and 
places, on the Mexico/US border: 



hello America 

this is the voice of Gran Vato Charollero 
broadcasting from the hot deserts of Nogales, Arizona 
zona de libre cogercio 
2000 megaherz en todas direciones 

you are celebrating Labor Day in Seattle 
while the Klan demonstrates 
against Mexicans in Georgia 
ironia, 100% ironia 10 

Beingin-the 'b e yond', th en-is tojn habit an intervening space, a s any 
dictionary will tell you. But to dwell 'jn the Jreyond' is also, as I have 
shown, to be part of a revisionary time, a return to the presenTto 
redescribe our cultural COntem pnranpit y: tr> rpjnsrrihp n nr hiiman, higz 
toric comm onality; to touch jhejut ure on its hither side. I n that sense, 
then, the inter venin g space 'beyond', becomes a space of intervention, 
in the here and npw. To engage with such invention, and intervention, as 
Green and Gomez-Perta enact in their distinctive work, requires a sense 
of the new that resonates with the hybrid chicano aesthetic of 'rasquach- 
ismo' as Tomas Ybarra-Frausto describes it: 

the utilization of available resources for syncretism, juxtaposition, 
and integration. Rasquachismo is a sensibility attuned to mixtures 
and confluence ... a delight in texture and sensuous surfaces . . . 
self-conscious manipulation of materials or iconography . . . the 
combination of found material and satiric wit . . . the manipulation 
of rasquache artifacts, code and sensibilities from both sides of the 

The borderline work of culture demands an encounter with 'newness' 
{hat is not part of the continuum of past and present. It creates a sense 
of the new as an insurgent act of Cultural franslanon.iSuch art does not 
merely recall the past as social cause or aesthetic" precedent; it renews 
the pastT^ figiirmg^itr a^ fp^C, th at innovates. 

and interrupts the performance "of the pr esent . The 'past- 
presentT5ec8^^ of living. — 

Pepon Osorio's objets trouves of the Nuyorican (New York/ Puerto 
Rican) community - the statistics of infant mortality, or the silent (and 
silenced) spread of AIDS in the Hispanic community - are elaborated 
into baroque allegories of social alienation. But it is not the high drama 
of birth and death that captures Osorio's spectacular imagination. He is 
the great celebrant of the migjant-aet-of survival, usjng_bis mixed 
media work s to mak e a hybrid cultural space that forms contingently. 
disjunctively, in the mscripjionj3f_sig P s of cultural " 1pm " l y «itps_nf 
political agency. La Cama (The Bed) turns the highly decorated four- 



poster into the primal scene of lost-and-found childhood memories, the 
memorial to a dead nanny Juana, the mise-en-scbie of the eroticism of 
the 'emigrant'- everyday. Survival, for Osorio, is working in the 
interstices of a range of practices: the 'space' of installation, the spectacle 
of the social statistic, the transitive time of the body in performance. 

Finally, it is the photographic art of Alan Sekula that takes the border- 
line condition of cultural translation to its global limit in Fish Story, his 
photographic project on harbours: 'the harbour is the site in which 
material goods appear in bulk, in the very flux of exchange.' 12 The 
harbour and the stockmarket become the paysage moralise of a container- 
ized, computerized world of global trade. Yet, the non-synchronous 
time-space of transnational 'exchange', and exploitation, is embodied in 
a navigational allegory: 

Things are more confused now. A scratchy recording of the 
Norwegian national anthem blares out from a loudspeaker at 
the Sailor's Home on the bluff above the channel. The container 
ship being greeted flies a Bahamian flag of convenience. It was 
built by Koreans working long hours in the giant shipyards of 
Ulsan. The underpaid and the understaffed crew could be Salvado- 
rean or Filipino. Only the Captain hears a familiar melody. 13 

Norway's nationalist nostalgia cannot drown out the babel on the 
bluff. Transnational capitalism and the impoverishment of the Third 
World certainly create the chains of circumstance that incarcerate the 

thither, as migrant workers, part of the massive economic and political 
diaspora of tEe _ mo3ern~ worlcC they embody the Benjaminian 'present': 
that moment blasted out of the continuum of history. Such conditions 
of rnjhiral Hiffpj^ mpn^j^nH^snrial H isrriminaHnn - where political 
survivors become the best historical witnesses - are the grounds on 
which Frantz Fanon, the Martinican psychoanalyst and participant in 
the Algerian revolution, locates an agency of empowerment: 

| As soon as I desire I am asking to be considered. I am not merely 
/ here-and-now, sealed into thingness. I am for somewhere else and 
\ for something else. I demand that notice be taken of my negating 
I activity [my emphasis] insofar as I pursue something other than 
I life; insofar as I do battle for the creation of a human world - that 
\ is a world of reciprocal recognitions. 

I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in 
introducing invention into existence. 

In the world in which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself. 


cultural passage, hither and 



And it is by going beyond the historical, instrumental hypothesis 
that I will initiate my cycle of freedom. 14 

Once more it is the desire for recognition, 'for somewhere else and 
for something else' that takes the experience of history beyond the instru- 
mental hypothesis. Once again, it is the space of intervention, emerging 
in the cultural interstices that introduces creative invention into exist- 
ence. And one last time, there is a return to the performance of identity 
as iteration, the re-creation of the self in the world of travel, the resettle- 
ment of the borderline corrmiiutityj)f^migratTOivJFanon's desire for the 
recognition of cultural presence as 'negating activity' resonates with my 
breaking of the timerbarrier of a culturally collusive 'present'. 


Fanon recognizes the crucial important, fpr snhnrHinateH ponplog r»f 
asserting their indi genously^ ffld j^evjn£]lKgr 

repressed Histories. B ut he is far too aware of the dangers of the fixity 
and fetishism of identities within the calcification of colonial cultures to 
recommend that 'roots' be struck in the celebratory romance oHhejpjis^ 
or by homogenizing the history of the presenjjrhl Tn^g^tinfc^^ivity is , 
indeed, the int ervention of the 'beyond-' that estaSIishes^^imclary: a 
bn3g^7^vEere pj^encing' begins because it ca ptures somethin g of the 
esfranging^sense _o.l_thp rplocannn_jQf_JhA_JiCjrrte^\and thejjtygrld^. 
the unhome liness - ti rat isjthe condition onexTn5emtorial anoC&nag g^ 
cultural initiations. T o be unhomed is not to be homeless, riorcan'the 
'unhomely' be easily accommodated in that familiar division of social 
life into private and public spheres. The unhomely moment creeps up 
on you stealthily as your own shadow and suddenly you find yourself 
with Henry James's Isabel Archer, in The Portrait of a Lady, taking the 
measure of your dwelling in a state of 'incredulous terror'. 15 And it is 
at this point that the world first shrinks for Isabel and then expands 
enormously. As she struggles to survive the fathomless waters, the 
rushing torrents, James introduces us to the 'unhomeliness' inherent in 
that rite of extra-territorial and cross-cultural initiation. fTiejecesses of 
the domestisLspace become sites for history's most intricate invasions. 
In that displacement, the borders between home and world become 
confused; and, uncannily, the private and tHepublic become part ot each 
ot^er^Tprcing'upon" us a vision that is as divided as it is disorienting'.' 

Although the 'ur^ojneh/ is a paradigmatic colonialan^p^sfr^coloniai 
condition, it has^T^ionance that can be heard distinctly, if erratically, 
in fictions that negotiate the powers of cultural difference in a range of 
transhistorical sites. You have already heard the shrill alarm of the 
unhomely in that moment when Isabel Archer realizes that her world 



has been reduced to one high, mean window, as her house of fiction 
becomes 'the house of darkness, the house of dumbness, the house of 
suffocation'. 16 If you hear it thus at the Palazzo Roccanera in the late 
1870s, then a little earlier in 1873 on the outskirts of Cincinnati, in 
mumbling houses like 124 Bluestone Road, you hear the undecipherable 
language of the black and angry dead; the voice of Toni Morrison's 
Beloved, 'the thoughts of the women of 124, unspeakable thoughts, 
unspoken'. 17 More than a quarter of a century later in 1905, Bengal is 
ablaze with the Swadeshi or Home Rule movement when 'home-made 
Bimala, the product of the confined space', as Tagore describes her in 
The Home and the World, is aroused by 'a running undertone of melody, 
low down in the bass . . . the true manly note, the note of power'. 
Bimala is possessed and drawn forever from the zenana, the secluded 
women's quarters, as she crosses that fated verandah into the world of 
public affairs - 'over to another shore and the ferry had ceased to ply.' 18 
Much closer to our own times in contemporary South Africa, Nadine 
Gordimer's heroine Aila in My Son's Story emanates a stilling atmos- 
phere as she makes her diminished domesticity into the perfect cover 
for gun-running: suddenly the home turns into another world, and the 
narrator notices that 'It was as if everyone found that he had unnotic- 
ingly entered a strange house, and it was hers. . . .'" 

The historical specificities and cultural diversities that inform each of 
these texts would make a global argument purely gestural; in any case, 
I shall only be dealing with Morrison and Gordimer in any detail. 
But the 'unhomely' does provide a 'non-continuist' problematic that 
dramatizes - in the figure of woman - the ambivalent structure of 
the civil State as it draws its rather paradoxical boundary between the 
.private and the public spheres. If, for Freud, the unheimlich is 'the name 
for everything that ought to have remained . . . secret and hidden but 
-has come to light,' then Hannah Arendt's description of the public and 
(private realms is a profoundly unhomely one: 'it is the distinction 
[between things that should be hidden and things that should be shown,' 
she writes, which through their inversion in the modem age 'discovers 
how rich and manifold the hidden can be under conditions of 
intimacy'. 20 

This logic of reversal, that turns on a disavowal, informs the profound 
revelations and reinscriptions of the unhomely moment. For what was 
'hidden from sight' for Arendt, becomes in Carole Pateman's The Dis- 
order of Women the 'ascriptive domestic sphere' that is forgotten in the 
theoretical distinctions of the private and public spheres of civil society. 
Such a forgetting - or disavowal - creates an uncertainty at the heart 
of the generalizing subject of civil society, compromising the 'individual' 
that is the support for its universalist aspiration. By making visible the 
forgetting of the 'unhomely' moment in civil society, feminism specifies 



the patriarchal, gendered nature of civil society and disturbs the sym- 
metry of private and public which is now shadowed, or uncannily 
doubled, by the difference of genders which does not neatly map on to 
the private and the public, but becomes disturbingly supplementary 
fb them. This results in redrawing the domestic space as the space of 
the normalizing, pastoralizing, and individuating techniques of modem 
power and police: the personal-is-the political; the world-in-the-home.^ 

The unhomely moment relates the traumatic ambivalences of a per- 
sonal, psychic history to the wider disjunctions of political existence. 
Beloved, the child murdered by her own mother, Sethe, is a daemonic, 
belated repetition of the violent history of black infant deaths, during 
slavery, in many parts of the South, less than a decade after the haunting 
of 124 Bluestone Road. (Between 1882 and 1895 from one-third to a 
half of the annual black mortality rate was accounted for by children 
under five years of age.) But the memory of Sethe's act of infanticide 
emerges through 'the holes - the things the fugitives did not say; the 
questions they did not ask . . . the unnamed, the unmentioned.' 21 As we 
reconstruct the narrative of child murder through Sethe, the slave 
mother, who is herself the victim of social death, the very historical 
basis of our ethical judgement undergoes a radical revision. \ 

Such forms of social and psychic existence can best be represented in 
that tenuous survival of literary language itself, which allows memory 
to speak: 

while knowing Speech can (be) at best, a shadow echoing 
the silent light, bear witness 
To the truth, it is not . . . 

W. H. Auden wrote those lines on the powers of poesis in The Cave of 
Making, aspiring to be, as he put it, 'a minor Atlantic Goethe'. 22 And it 
is to an intriguing suggestion in Goethe's final 'Note on world literature' 
(1830) that I now turn to find a comparative method that would speak 
to the 'unhomely' condition of the modem world. 

Goethe suggests that the possibility of a world literature arises from 
the cultural confusion wrought by terrible wars and mutual conflicts. 

could not return to their settled and independent life again without 
noticing that they had learned many foreign ideas and ways, which 
they had unconsciously adopted, and come to feel here and there 
previously unrecognized spiritual and intellectual needs. 23 

Goethe's immediate reference is, of course, to the Napoleonic wars 
and his concept of 'the feeling of neighbourly relations' is profoundly 
Eurocentric, extending as far as England and France. However, as an 
Orientalist who read Shakuntala at seventeen years of age, and who 



writes in his autobiography of the 'unformed and overformed' 24 monkey 
god Hanuman, Goethe's speculations are open to another line of 

What of the more complex cultural situation where 'previously 
unrecognized spiritual and intellectual needs' emerge from the impo- 
sition of 'foreign' ideas, cultural representations, and structures of 
power? Goethe suggests that the 'inner nature of the whole nation as 
well as the individual man works all unconsciously.' 25 When this is 
placed alongside his idea that the cultural life of the nation is 'uncon- 
sciously' lived, then there may be a sense in which world literature 
could be an emergent, prefigurative category that is concerned with a 
form of cultural dissensus and alterity, where non-consensual terms of 
affiliation may be established on the grounds of historical trauma. The 
study of world literature might be the study of the way in which 
cujjuresrecogni^^ nf 'otherness^ 

Where, once, the transmission of national traditions was the major theme 
of a world literature, perhaps we can now suggest that transnational 
histories of migrants, the colonized, or political refugees - these border 
and frontier conditions - may be the terrains of world literature. The 
centre of such a study would neither be the 'sovereignty' of national 
cultures, nor the universalism of human culture, but a focus on those 
'freak social and cultural displacements' that Morrison and Gordimer 
represent in their 'unhomely' fictions. Which leads us to ask: can the 
perplexity of the unhomely, intrapersonal world lead to an international 

If we are seeking a 'worlding' of literature, then perhaps it lies in a 
critical act that attempts to grasp the sleight of hand with which litera- 
ture conjures with historical specificity, using the medium of psychic 
uncertainty, aesthetic distancing, or the obscure signs of the spirit-world, 
the sublime and the subliminal. As literary creatures and political ani- 
mals we ought to concern ourselves with the understanding of human 
action and the social world as a moment when something is beyond 
control, but it is not beyond accommodation. This act of writing the world, 
of taking the measure of its dwelling, is magically caught in Morrison's 
description of her house of fiction - art as 'the fully realized presence 
of a haunting' 26 of history. Read as an image that describes the 
relation of art to social reality, my translation of Morrison's phrase 
becomes a statement on the political responsibility of the critic. For 
the critic must attempt to fully realize, and take responsibility for, the 
unspoken, unrepresented pasts that haunt the historical present. ^ 

Our task remains, however, to show how historical agency is trans- 
formed through the signifying process; how the historical event is repre- 
sented in a discourse that is somehow beyond control. This is in keeping 
with Hannah Arendt's suggestion that the author of social action may 



be the initiator of its unique meaning, but as agent he or she cannot 
control its outcome. It is not simply what the house of fiction contains 
or 'controls' as content. What is just as important is the metaphoricity 
of the houses of racial memory that both Morrison and Gordimer con- 
struct - those subjects of the narrative that mutter or mumble like 124 
Bluestone Road, or keep a still silence in a 'grey' Cape Town suburb.K 

Each of the houses in Gordimer's My Son's Story is invested with a 
specific secret or a conspiracy an unhomely stirring. The house in the 
ghetto is the house of the collusiveness of the coloureds in their antagon- 
istic relations to the blacks; the lying house is the house of Sonny's 
adultery; then there is the silent house of Aila's revolutionary camou- 
flage; there is also the nocturnal house of Will, the narrator, writing of 
the narrative that charts the phoenix rising in his home, while the words 
must turn to ashes in his mouth. But each 'unhomely' house marks a 
deeper historical displacement. And that is the condition of being 'col- 
oured' in South Africa, or as Will describes it, 'halfway between . . . 
being not defined - and it was this lack of definition in itself that was 
never to be questioned, but observed like a taboo, something which no 
one, while following, could ever admit to'. 27 

This halfway house of racial and cultural origins bridges the 'in- 
between' diasporic origins of the coloured South African and turns it 
into the symbol for the disjunctive, displaced everyday life of the liber- 
ation struggle: 'like so many others of this kind, whose families are 
fragmented in the diaspora of exile, code names, underground activity, 
people for whom a real home and attachments are something for others 
who will come after.' 28 _^ - 

Private and public, past and present, the psyche and the social 
develop an interstitial intimacy. It is an intimacy that questions binary 
divisions through which such spheres of social experience are often 
spatially opposed. These spheres of life are linked through an 'in- 
between' temporality that takes the measure of dwelling at home, while 
producing an image of the world of history. This is the moment of 
aesthetic distance that provides the narrative with a double edge, which 
like the coloured South African subject represents a hybridity, a differ- 
ence 'within', a subject that inhabits the rim of an 'in-between' reality. 
And the inscription of this borderline existence inhabits a stillness of 
time and a strangeness of framing that creates the discursive 'image' at 
the crossroads of history and literature, bridging the home and the 

Such a strange stillness is visible in the portrait of Aila. Her husband 
Sonny, now past his political prime, his affair with his white revolution- 
ary lover in abeyance, makes his first prison visit to see his wife. The 
wardress stands back, the policeman fades, and Aila emerges as an 
unhomely presence, on the opposite side from her husband and son: 



but through the familiar beauty there was a vivid strangeness. . . . 
It was as if some chosen experience had seen in her, as a painter 
will in his subject, what she was, what was there to be discovered. 
In Lusaka, in secret, in prison - who knows where - she had sat 
for her hidden face. They had to recognise her. 29 

Through this painterly distance a vivid strangeness emerges; a partial 
or double 'self ' is framed in a climactic political moment that is also a 
contingent historical event - 'some chosen experience . . . who knows 
where ... or what there was to be discovered.' 30 They had to recognize 
her, but what do they recognize in her? 

Words will not speak and the silence freezes into the images of 
apartheid: identity cards, police frame-ups, prison mug-shots, the grainy 
press pictures of terrorists. Of course, Aila is not judged, nor is she 
judgemental. Her revenge is much wiser and more complete. In her 
silence she becomes the unspoken 'totem' of the taboo of the coloured 
South African. She displays the unhomely world, 'the halfway between 
. . . not defined' world of the coloured as the 'distorted place and time 
in which they - all of them - Sonny, Aila, Hannah - lived'. 31 The silence 
that doggedly follows Aila's dwelling now turns into an image of the 
'interstices', the in-between hybridity of the history of sexuality and 

The necessity for what I've done - She placed the outer edge of 
each hand, fingers extended and close together, as a frame on 
either sides of the sheets of testimony in front of her. And she 
placed herself before him, to be judged by him. 32 

Aila's hidden face, the outer edge of each hand, these small gestures 
through which she speaks describe another dimension of 'dwelling' in 
the social world. Aila as coloured woman defines a boundary that is at 
once inside and outside, the insider's outsideness. The stillness that 
surrounds her, the gaps in her story, her hesitation and passion that 
speak between the self and its acts - these are moments where the 
private and public touch in contingency They do not simply transform 
the content of political ideas; the very 'place' from which the political 
is spoken - the public sphere itself, becomes an experience of liminality 
which questions, in Sonny's words, what it means to speak 'from the 
centre of life'. 33 

The central political preoccupation of the novel - till Aila's emergence 
- focuses on the 'loss of absolutes', the meltdown of the cold war, the 
fear 'that if we can't offer the old socialist paradise in exchange for 
the capitalist hell here, we'll have turned traitor to our brothers'. 34 The 
lesson Aila teaches requires a movement away from a world conceived 
in binary terms, away from a notion of the people's aspirations sket- 



ched in simple black and white. It also requires a shift of attention from 
the political as a pedagogical, ideological practice to politics as the 
stressed necessity of everyday life - politics as a performativity. Aila 
leads us to the unhomely world where, Gordimer writes, the banalities 
are enacted - the fuss over births, marriages, family affairs with their 
survival rituals of food and clothing. 35 But it is precisely in these banalit- 
ies that the unhomely stirs, as the violence of a racialized society falls 
most enduringly on the details of life: where you can sit, or not; how 
you can live, or not; what you can learn, or not; who you can love, or 
not. Between the banal act of freedom and its historic denial rises the 
silence: 'Aila emanated a stilling atmosphere; the parting jabber stopped. 
It was as if everyone found he had unnoticingly entered a strange 
house, and it was hers; she stood there.' 36 

In Aila's stillness, its obscure necessity, we glimpse what Emmanuel 
Levinas has magically described as the twilight existence of the aesthetic 
image - art's image as 'the very event of obscuring, a descent into night, 
an invasion of the shadow'. 37 The 'completion' of the aesthetic, the 
distancing of the world in the image, is precisely not a transcendental 
activity. The image - or the metaphoric, 'fictional' activity of discourse 
- makes visible 'an interruption of time by a movement going on on 
the hither side of time, in its interstices'. 38 The complexity of this state- 
ment will become clearer when I remind you of the stillness of time 
through which Aila surreptitiously and subversively interrupts the on- 
going presence of political activity, using her interstitial role, her 
domestic world to both 'obscure' her political role and to articulate it 
the better. Or, as Beloved, the continual eruption of 'undecipherable 
languages' of slave memory obscures the historical narrative of infanti- 
cide only to articulate the unspoken: that ghostly discourse that enters 
the world of 124 'from the outside' in order to reveal the transitional 
world of the aftermath of slavery in the 1870s, its private and public 
faces, its historical past and its narrative present. ' 

The aesthetic image discloses an ethical time of narration because, 
Levinas writes, 'the real world appears in the image as it were between 
parentheses.' 39 Like the outer edges of Aila's hands holding her enig- 
matic testimony, like 124 Bluestone Road which is a fully realized pres- 
ence haunted by undecipherable languages, Levinas's parenthetical 
perspective is also an ethical view. It effects an 'externality of the inward' 
as the very enunciative position of the historical and narrative subject, 
'introducing into the heart of subjectivity a radical and anarchical refer- 
ence to the other which in fact constitutes the inwardness of the sub- 
ject.' 40 Is it not uncanny that Levinas's metaphors for this unique 
'obscurity' of the image should come from those Dickensian unhomely 
places - those dusty boarding schools, the pale light of London offices, 
the dark, dank second-hand clothes shops? 




For Levinas the 'art-magic' of the contemporary novel lies in its way 
of 'seeing inwardness from the outside', and it is this ethical- 
aesthetic positioning that returns us, finally, to the community of the 
unhomely, to the famous opening lines of Beloved: '124 was spiteful. The 
women in the house knew it and so did the children.' 

It is Toni Morrison who takes this ethical and aesthetic project of 
'seeing inwardness from the outside' furthest or deepest - right into 
Beloved's naming of her desire for identity: 'I want you to touch me on 
my inside part and call me my name.' 41 There is an obvious reason why 
a ghost should want to be so realized. What is more obscure - and to 
the point - is how such an inward and intimate desire would provide 
an 'inscape' of the memory of slavery. For Morrison, it is precisely the 
signification of the historical and discursive boundaries of slavery that 
are the issue. 

Racial violence is invoked by historical dates - 1876, for instance - 
but Morrison is just a little hasty with the events 'in-themselves', as she 
rushes past 'the true meaning of the Fugitive Bill, the Settlement Fee, 
God's Ways, antislavery, manumission, skin voting'. 42 What has to be 
endured is the knowledge of doubt that comes from Sethe's eighteen 
years of disapproval and a solitary life, her banishment in the unhomely 
world of 124 Bluestone Road, as the pariah of her postslavery com- 
munity. What finally causes the thoughts of the women of 124 'unspeak- 
able thoughts to be unspoken' is the understanding that the victims of 
violence are, themselves 'signified upon': they are the victims of pro- 
jected fears, anxieties and dominations that do not originate within the 
oppressed and will not fix them in the circle of pain. The stirring of 
emancipation comes with the knowledge that the racially supremacist 
belief 'that under every dark skin there was a jungle' was a belief that 
grew, spread, touched every perpetrator of the racist myth, turned them 
mad from their own untruths, and was then expelled from 124 Bluestone 

But before such an emancipation from the ideologies of the master, 
Morrison insists on the harrowing ethical repositioning of the slave 
mother, who must be the enunciatory site for seeing the inwardness of 
the slave world from the outside - when the 'outside' is the ghostly 
return of the child she murdered; the double of herself, for 'she is the 
laugh I am the laugher I see her face which is mine.' 43 What could be 
the ethics of child murder? What historical knowledge returns to Sethe, 
through the aesthetic distance or 'obscuring' of the event, in the phan- 
tom shape of her dead daughter Beloved? 

In her fine account of forms of slave resistance in Within the Plantation 
Household, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese considers murder, self -mutilation and 
infanticide to be the core psychological dynamic of all resistance. It is 
her view that 'these extreme forms captured the essence of the slave 



woman's self-definition'. 44 Again we see how this most tragic and inti- 
mate act of violence is performed in a struggle to push back the bound- 
aries of the slave world. Unlike acts of confrontation against the master 
or the overseer which were resolved within the household context, 
infanticide was recognized as an act against the system and at least 
acknowledged the slavewoman's legal standing in the public sphere. 
Infanticide was seen to be an act against the master's property - against 
his surplus profits - and perhaps that, Fox-Genovese concludes, 'led 
some of the more desperate to feel that, by killing an infant they loved, 
they would be in some way reclaiming it as their own'. 45 

Through the death and the return of Beloved, precisely such a recla- 
mation takes place: the slave mother regaining through the presence of 
the child, the property of her own person. This knowledge comes as a 
kind of self-love that is also the love of the 'other': Eros and Agape 
together. It is an ethical love in the Levinasian sense in which the 
'inwardness' of the subject is inhabited by the 'radical and anarchical 
reference to the other'. This knowledge is visible in those intriguing 
chapters 46 which lay over each other, where Sethe, Beloved and Denver 
perform a fugue-like ceremony of claiming and naming through inter- 
secting and interstitial subjectivities: 'Beloved, she my daughter'; 
'Beloved is my sister'; 'I am Beloved and she is mine.' The women 
speak in tongues, from a space 'in-between each other' which is a 
communal space. They explore an 'interpersonal' reality: a social reality 
that appears within the poetic image as if it were in parentheses - 
aesthetically distanced, held back, and yet historically framed. It is 
difficult to convey the rhythm and the improvization of those chapters, 
but it is impossible not to see : t them the healing of history, a com- 
munity reclaimed in the making of a name. We can finally ask ourselves: 

Who is Beloved? 

Now we understand: she is the daughter that returns to Sethe so that 
her mind will be homeless no more. 

Who is Beloved? 

Now we may say: she is the sister that returns to Denver, and brings 
hope of her father's return, the fugitive who died in his escape. 

Who is Beloved? 

Now we know: she is the daughter made of murderous love who 
returns to love and hate and free herselffjier words are broken, like 
the lynched people with broken necks; disembodied, like the dead 
children who lost their ribbons. But there is no mistaking what her live 
.words say as they rise from the dead despitejheir Jost syntax and their 
fragmented presence. 



My face is coming I have to have it I am looking for the 
join I am loving my face so much I want to join I am 
loving my face so much my dark face is close to me I want 
to join. 47 


To end, as I have done, with the nest of the phoenix, not its pyre is, in 
another way, to return to my beginning in the beyond. If Gordimer and 
Morrison describe the historical world, forcibly entering the house of 
art and fiction in order to invade, alarm, divide and dispossess, they 
also demonstrate the contemporary compulsion to move beyond; to turn 
tiw^5^mtjrrtoJ^.'ps«^; or, as I said earlier, to touch the future on 
its hither side. Aila's in-between identity and Beloved's double lives 
both affirm the borders of culture's insurgent and interstitial existence. 
In that sense, they take their stand with Renee Green's pathway between 
racial polarities; or Rushdie's migrant history of the English written in 
the margins of satanic verses; or Osorio's bed - La Cama - a place of 
dwelling, located between the _unhomeJiness_ of migrancy _and.„the 
baroque belongmg^-the-jnetropoli tan. N ew York/ Puerto-Rican artiste 

When the public nature of the social event encounters the silence of 
the word it may lose its historical composure and closure. At this point 
we would do well to recall Walter Benjamin's insight on the disrupted 
dialectic of modernity: 'Ambiguity is the figurative appearance of the 
dialectic, the law of the dialectic at a standstill.' 48 For Benjamin that 
stillness is Utopia; for those who live, as I described it, 'otherwise' than 
modernity but not outside it, the Utopian moment is not the necessary 
horizon of hope. I have ended this argument with the woman framed 
- Gordimer 's Aila - and the woman renamed - Morrison's Beloved - 
because in both their houses great world events erupted - slavery and 
apartheid - and their happening was turned, through that peculiar 
obscurity of art, into a second coming. 

Although Morrison insistently repeats at the close of Beloved, 'This is 
not a story to pass on,' she does this only in order to engrave the event 
in the deepest resources of our amnesia, of our unconsciousness. When 
historical visibility has faded, when the present tense of testimony loses 
its power to arrest, then the displacements of memory and the indirec- 
tions of art offer us the image of our psychic survival. To live in the 
unhomely world, to find its ambivalencies and ambiguities enacted in 
the house of fiction, or its sundering and splitting performed in the 
work of art, is also to affirm a profound desire for social solidarity: 'I 
am looking for the join ... I want to join ... I want to join.' 





There is a damaging and self-defeating assumption that, theory is neces- 
sarily the elite language of the socially and culturally privileged. It is 
said that the place of the academic critic is inevitably within the Euro- 
centric archives of an imperialist or neo-colonial West. The Olympian 
realms of what is mistakenly labelled 'pure theory' are assumed to be 
eternally insulated from the historical exigencies and tragedies of the 
wretched of the earth. Must we always polarize in order to polemicize? 
Are we trapped in a politics of struggle where the representation of 
social antagonisms and historical contradictions can take no other form 
than a binarism of theory vs politics? Can the aim of freedom of knowl- 
edge be the simple inversion of the relation of oppressor and oppressed, 
centre and periphery, negative image and positive image? Is our only 
way out of such dualism the espousal of an implacable oppositionality 
or the invention of ah originary counter-myth of radical purity? Must 
the project of our liberatiofiist aesthetics be forever part of a totalizing 
Utopian vision of Being and History that seeks to transcend the contra- 
dictions and ambivalences that constitute the very structure of human 
subjectivity and its systems of cultural representation? — 
jetween what is represented as the larceny' and distortion of Euro- 
pean 'metatheorizing' and the radical, engaged, activist experience of 
J^d World creativity, 1 one can see the mirror image (albeit reversed in 
cont nt and intention) of that ahistorical nineteenth-century polarity of 
Orient .andJDeodenl jwhich, in the name of progress, unleashed the 
exclusionary imperialist ideologies of self and other. This time round, 
th^ter^crjlicaLjfeeory', often untheorized and unargued, is definitely 
the Other, an otherness that is insistently identified with the vagaries 
of Jthe depoliticized Eurocentric critic. Is the cause of radical art or 
critique best served for instance, by a fulminating professor of film who 
announces, at a flashpoint in the argument, We are not artists, we are 
political activists?' By obscuring the power of his own practice in the 



rhetoric of militancy, he fails to draw attention to the specific value 
of a politics of cultural production; because it makes the surfaces of 
cinematic signification the grounds of political intervention, it gives 
depth to the language of social criticism and extends the domain of 
'politics' in a direction that will not be entirely dominated by the forces 
of economic or social control. Forms of popular rebellion and mobiliz- 
ation are often most subversive and transgressive when they are created 
through oppositional cultural practices. 

Before I am accused of bourgeois voluntarism, liberal pragmatism, 
academicist pluralism and all the other ' -isms' that are freely bandied 
about by those who take the most severe exception to 'Eurocentric' 
theoreticz'sm (Derrideanism, Lacanianism, poststructuralism . . .), I would 
like to clarify the goals of my opening questions. I am convinced that, 
SLthe l anguage of political economy, , it .is legitimate to represent the 
relations of exploitation and domination in the discursive division 
between the First and Third World, the North and the South. Despite 
the claims to a spurious rhetoric of 'internationalism' on the part of the 
established multinationals and the networks of the new communications 
technology industries, such circulations of signs and commodities as 
there are, are caught in the vicious circuits of surplus value that link 
First World capital to Third World labour markets through the chains 
of the international division of labour, and national comprador classes. 
Gayatri Spivak is right to conclude that it is 'in the interest of capital 
to preserve the comprador theatre in a state of relatively primitive 
labour legislation and environmental regulation'. 2 

I am equally convinced that, in the language of international diplo- 
macy, there is a sharp growth in a new Anglo-American nationalism 
which increasingly articulates its economic and military power in politi- 
cal acts that express a neo-imperialist disregard for the independence 
and autonomy of peoples and places in the Third World. Think of 
America's 'backyard' policy towards the Caribbean and Latin America, 
the patriotic gore and patrician lore of Britain's Falklands Campaign or, 
more recently, the triumphalism of the American and British forces 
during the Gulf War. I am further convinced that such economic and 
political domination has a profound hegemonic influence on the infor- 
mation orders of the Western world, its popular media and its special- 
ized institutions and academics. So much is not in doubt. 

What does demand further discussion is. whether the 'new' languages 
of theoretical critique, (semiotic, poststructuralist, deconstructionist and 
the rest) simply reflect those geopolitical divisions and their spheres of 
influence. Are the interests of 'Western' theory necessarily collusive with 
the hegemonic role of the West as a power bloc?.Is_the_ language. of 
theory merely another power ploy of the culturally privileged Western 



elite to produce a discourse of the Other that jreinfoxces its 
knpwledge equation? 

A large film festival in the West - even an alternative or counter- 
cultural event such as Edinburgh's Third Cinema' Conference - never 
fails to reveal the disproportionate influence of the West as cultural 
forum, in all three senses of that word: as place of public exhibition and 
discussion, as place of judgement, and as market-place. An Indian film 
about the plight of Bombay's pavement-dwellers wins the Newcastle 
Festival which then opens up distribution facilities in India. The first 
searing expose of the Bhopal disaster is made for Channel Four. A major 
debate on the politics and theory of Third Cinema first appears in 
Screen, published by the British Film Institute. An archival article on the 
important history of neo-traditionalism and the 'popular' in Indian 
cinema sees the light of day in Framework. 3 Among the major contribu- 
tors to the development of the Third Cinema as precept and practice 
are a number of Third World film-makers and critics who are exiles or 
emigres in the West and live problematically, often dangerously, on the 
'left' margins of a Eurocentric, bourgeois liberal culture. I don't think I 
need to add individual names or places, or detail the historical reasons 
why the West carries and exploits what Bourdieu would call its symbolic 
capital. The condition is all too familiar, and it is not my purpose 
here to make those important distinctions between different national 
situations and the disparate political causes and collective histories of 
cultural exile. I wan t to take my stand on the shifting margins of cultural 
displacement -"that confounds jiay-4iriifQund^r-.'authentid.-sense-of-a 
inatjonar^cBEiSjor an 'organic' intellectual - and ask what the function 
of a committed theoretical perspective might be, once the cultural and 
historical h ^bjidity of the postcolonial world is taken as the paradig- 

Cornmitted to what? At this stage in the argument, I do not want to 
identify any specific 'object' of political allegiance - the Third World, 
the working class, the feminist struggle. Although such an objectification 
of political activity is crucial and must significantly inform political 
debate, it is not the only option for those critics or intellectuals who are 
committed to progressive political change in the direction of a socialist 
society. It is a sign of political maturity to accept that there are many 
forms of political writing whose different effects are obscured when 
they are divided between the 'theoretical' and the 'activist'. It is not as 
if the leaflet involved in the organization of a strike is short on theory, 
while a speculative article on the theory of ideology ought to have more 
practical examples or applications. They are both forms of discourse 
and to that extent they produce rather than reflect their objects of 
reference. The difference between them lies in their operational qualities. 
The leaflet has a specific expository and organizational purpose, 



temporally bound to the event; the theory of ideology makes its contri- 
bution to those embedded political ideas and principles that inform the 
right to strike. The latter does not justify the former; nor does it neces- 
sarily precede it. It exists side by side with it - the one as an enabling 
part of the other - like the recto and verso of a sheet of paper, to use a 
common semiotic analogy in the uncommon context of politics. 

My concern here is with the process of 'intervening ideologically', as 
Stuart Hall describes the role of 'imagining' or representation in the 
practice of politics in his response to the British election of 1987. 4 For 
Hall, the notion of hegemony implies a politics of identification of the 
imaginary. This occupies a discursive space which is not exclusively 
delimited by the history of either the right or the left. It exists somehow 
in-between these political polarities, and also between the familiar divi- 
sions of theory and political practice. This approach, as I read it, intro- 
duces us to an exciting, neglected moment, or movement, in the 
'recognition' of the relation of politics to theory; and confounds the tra- 
ditional division between them. Such a movement is initiated if we see 
that relation as determined by the rule of repeatable materiality, which 
Foucault describes as the process by which statements from one insti- 
tution can be transcribed in the discourse of another. 5 Despite the schem- 
ata of use and application that constitute a field of stabilization for 
the statement, any change in the statement's conditions of use and 
reinvestment, any alteration in its field of experience or verification, or 
indeed any difference in the problems to be solved, can lead to the 
emergence of a new statement: the difference of the same. 

In what hybrid forms, then, may a politics of the theoretical statement 
emerge? What tensions and ambivalences mark this engimatic place 
from which theory speaks? Speaking in the name of some counter- 
authority or horizon of 'the true' (in Foucault's sense of the strategic 
effects of any apparatus or dispositif), the theoretical enterprise has to 
represent the adversarial authority (of power and/or knowledge) which, 
in a doubly inscribed move, it simultaneously seeks to subvert and 
replace. In this complicated formulation I have tried to indicate some- 
thing of the boundary and location of the event of theoretical critique 
which does not contain the truth (in polar opposition to totalitarianism, 
'bourgeois liberalism' or whatever is supposed to repress it). The 'true' 
is always marked and informed by the ambivalence of the process of 
emergence itself, the productivity of meanings that construct counter- 
knowledges in medias res, in the very act of agonism, within the terms 
of a negotiation (rather than a negation) of oppositional and antagonistic 
elements. Political positions are not simply identifiable as progressive 
or reactionary, bourgeois or radical, prior to the act of critique engagee, or 
outside the terms and conditions of their discursive address. It is in this 
sense that the historical moment of political action must be thought of 



as part of the history of the. form of its writing. This is not to state the 
obvious, that there is no knowledge - political or otherwise - outside 
representation. It is to suggest that the dynamics of writing and textual- 
ity require us to rethink the logics of causality and determinacy through 
which we recognize the 'political' as a form of calculation and strategic 
action dedicated to social transformation. 

'What is to be done?' must acknowledge the force of writing, its 
metaphoricity and its rhetorical discourse, as a productive matrix which 
defines the 'social' and makes it available as an objective of and for, 
action. Textuality is not simply a second-order ideological expression or 
a verbal symptom of a pre-given political subject. That the political 
subject - as indeed the subject of politics - is a discursive event is 
nowhere more clearly seen than in a text which has been a formative 
influence on Western democratic and socialist discourse - Mill's essay 
'On Liberty'. His crucial chapter, 'On The Liberty of Thought and Dis- 
cussion', is an attempt to define political judgement as the problem of 
finding a form of public rhetoric able to represent different and opposing 
political 'contents' not as a priori preconstituted principles but as a 
dialogical discursive exchange; a negotiation of terms in the on-going 
present of the enunciation of the political statement. What is unexpected 
is the suggestion that a crisis of identification is initiated in the textual 
performance that displays a certain 'difference' within the signification 
of any single political system, prior to establishing the substantial differ- 
ences between political beliefs. A knowledge can only become political 
through an agnostic process: dissensus, alterity and otherness are the 
discursive conditions for the circulation and recognition of a politicized 
subject and a public 'truth': 

[If] opponents of all important truths do not exist, it is indispens- 
able to imagine them [He] must feel the whole force of the 

difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and 
dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of 

truth which meets and removes that difficulty Their conclusion 

may be true, but it might be false for anything they know: they 
have never thrown themselves into the mental position of those 
who think differently from them . . . and consequently they do not, 
in any proper sense of the word, know the doctrine which they 
themselves profess. 6 (My emphases) 

It is true that Mill's 'rationality' permits, or requires, such forms of 
contention and contradiction in order to enhance his vision of the 
inherently progressive and evolutionary bent of human judgement. (This 
makes it possible for contradictions to be resolved and also generates a 
sense of the 'whole truth' which reflects the natural, organic bent of the 
human mind.) It is also true that Mill always reserves, in society as 



in his argument, the unreal neutral space of the Third Person as the 
representative of the 'people', who witnesses the debate from an 'epis- 
temological distance' and draws a reasonable conclusion. Even so, in 
his attempt to describe the political as a form of debate and dialogue - 
as the process of public rhetoric - that is crucially mediated through 
this ambivalent and antagonistic faculty of a political 'imagination', Mill 
exceeds the usual mimetic sense of the battle of ideas. He suggests 
something much more dialogical: the realization of the political idea at 
the ambivalent point of textual address, its emergence through a form 
of political projection. 

Rereading Mill through the stategies of 'writing' that I have suggested, 
reveals that one cannot passively follow the line of argument running 
through the logic of the opposing ideology. The textual process of politi- 
cal antagonism initiates a contradictory process of reading between the 
lines; the agent of the discourse becomes, in the same time of utterance, 
the inverted, projected object of the argument, turned against itself. It 
is, Mill insists, only by effectively assuming the mental position of the 
antagonist and working through the displacing and decentring force of 
that discursive difficulty that the politicized 'portion of truth' is pro- 
duced. This is a different dynamic from the ethic of tolerance in liberal 
ideology which has to imagine opposition in order to contain it and 
demonstrate its enlightened relativism or humanism. Reading Mill, 
against the grain, suggests that politics can only become representative, 
a truly public discourse, through a splitting in the signification of the 
subject of representation; through an ambivalence at the point of 
the enunciation of a politics. 

I have chosen to demonstrate the importance of the space of writing, 
and the problematic of address, at the very heart of the liberal tradition 
because it is here that the myth of the 'transparency' of the human 
agent and the reasonableness of political action is most forcefully 
asserted. Despite the more radical political alternatives of the right and 
the left, the popular, common-sense view of the place of the individual 
in relation to the social is still substantially thought and lived in ethical 
terms moulded by liberal beliefs. What the attention to rhetoric and 
writing reveals is the discursive ambivalence that makes 'the political' 
possible. From such a perspective, the problematic of political judgement 
cannot be represented as an epistemological problem of appearance and 
reality or theory and practice or word and thing. Nor can it be repre- 
sented as a dialectical problem or a symptomatic contradiction constitut- 
ive of the materiality of the 'real'. On the contrary, we are made 
excruciatingly aware of the ambivalent juxtaposition, the dangerous 
interstitial relation of the factual and the projective, and, beyond that, 
of the crucial function of the textual and the rhetorical. It is those 
vicissitudes of the movement of the signifier, in the fixing of the factual 



and the closure of the real, that ensure the efficacy of stategic thinking 
in the discourses of Realpolitik. It is this to-and-fro, this fort/da of the 
symbolic process of political negotiation, that constitutes a politics of 
address. Its importance goes beyond the unsettling of the essentialism 
or logocenrncism of a received political tradition, in the name of an 
abstract free play of the signifies 

A critical discourse does not yield a new political object, or aim, or 
knowledge, which is simply a mimetic reflection of an a priori political 
principle or theoretical commitment. We should not demand of it a pure 
teleology of analysis whereby the prior principle is simply augmented, 
its rationality smoothly developed, its identity as socialist or materialist 
(as opposed to neo-imperialist or humanist) consistently confirmed in 
each oppositional stage of the argument. Such identikit political idealism 
may be the gesture of great individual fervour, but it lacks the deeper, 
if dangerous, sense of what is entailed by the passage of history in 
theoretical discourse. The language of critique is effective not because 
it keeps forever separate the terms of the master and the slave, the 
mercantilist and the Marxist, but to the extent to which it overcomes 
the given grounds of opposition and opens up a space of translation: a 
place of hybridity, figuratively speaking, where the construction of 
a political object that is new, neither the one nor the other, properly 
alienates our political expectations, and changes, as if must, the very 
forms of our recognition of the moment of politics. The challenge lies 
in conceiving of the time of political action and understanding as open- 
ing up a space that can accept and regulate the differential structure of 
the moment of intervention without rushing to produce a unity of the 
social antagonism or contradiction. This is a sign that history is happening 
- within the pages of theory, within the systems and structures we 
construct to figure the passage of the historical. 

When I talk of negotiation rather than negation, it is to convey a 
temporality that makes it possible to conceive of the articulation of 
antagonistic or contradictory elements: a dialectic without the emergence 
of a teleological or transcendent History, and beyond the prescriptive 
form of symptomatic reading where the nervous tics on the surface of 
ideology reveal the 'real materialist contradiction' that History embod- 
ies. In such a discursive temporality, the event of theory becomes the 
negotiation of contradictory and antagonistic instances that open up 
hybrid sites and objectives of struggle, and destroy those negative 
polarities between knowledge and its objects, and between theory and 
practical-political reason. 7 If I have argued against a primordial and pre- 
visionary division of right or left, progressive or reactionary, it has been 
only to stress the fully historical and discursive differance between them. 
I would not like my notion of negotiation to be confused with some 
syndicalist sense of reformism because that is not the political level that 



is being explored here. By negotiation I attempt to draw attention to 
the structure of iteration which informs political movements that attempt 
to articulate antagonistic and oppositional elements without the redemp- 
tive rationality of sulfation or transcendence. 8 

The temporality of negotiation or translation, as I have sketc hed it, has 
twojiiaHvadvantages. Jurst, it acknowledges the historical cormectedness 
between Jhe sub[ect_ and object, of ^crij^u£. Jli^J^ie-est-be-no 
sjmgh^c^essentialist opposition between ideological miscognition and 
revolutionary tautrTTrle r progressive reading is crucially determined by 
the advetrslTflat™or agonistic situation itself; it is effective because it 
uses the subversive, messy mask of camouflage and does not come like 
a pure avenging angel speaking the truth of a radical historicity and 
pure oppositionality. If one is_^i%a*gu&Ohis h eterogeneous emerge nce 
(n ot origin) of radica l critique, then - and this is''my__srcjESQcl4iQint^tfie 
function of theory within the political process becomes double-edged. 
It makes us awarejhat our political referents and priorities - the people, 
the -community, class struggle, anti-racism, gender difference, the 
assertion of an anti-imperialist, black or third perspective - are not there 
in .some primordial, naturalistic sense. Nor do they reflect a unitary or 
homQgene us political object. They make sehse~as ffiey come to be 
con tructed in the discourses of feminism or Marxism or the Third 
Cinema or whatever, whose objects of priority - class or sexuality or 
'the new ethnicity' - are always in historical and philosophical tension, 
or cross-reference with other objectives. 

Indeed, the whole history of socialist throught which seeks to 'make 
it new and better' seems to be a different process of articulating 
priorities whose political objects can be recalcitrant and contradictory. 
Within contemporary Marxism, for example, witness the continual ten- 
sion between the English, humanist, labourist faction and the 'theoretic- 
ist', structuralist, new left tendencies. Within feminism, there is again a 
marked difference of emphasis between the psychoanalytic /semiotic 
tradition and the Marxist articulation of gender and class through a 
theory of cultural and ideological interpellation. I have presented these 
differences in broad brush-strokes, often using the language of polemic, 
to suggest that each position is always a process of tra slation and 
transference of meaning. Each_objective is constructed on the trace of 
tha^perspective that it puts under erasure; each political object is deter- 
mined in delation to the other, and displaced in that critical act. Too 
often these theoretical issues are peremptorily tra sposed into organiz- 
ational terms and represented as sectarianism. I am suggesting that such 
contradictions and conflicts, which often thwart political intentions and 
make the question of commitment complex and difficult, are rooted in 
the process of translation and displacement in which the object of poli- 
tics is inscribed. The effect is not stasis or a sapping of the will. It is, 



on the contrary, the spur of the negotiation of socialist democratic poli- 
tics and policies which demand that questions of organization are theori- 
zed and socialist theory is 'organized', because there is no given community 
or body of the people whose inherent, radical historicity emits the right signs. 

This emphasis on the representation of the political, on the construc- 
tion of discourse, is the radical contribution of the translation of theory. 
Its conceptual vigilance never allows a simple identity between the 
political objective and its means of representation. This emphasis on 
the necessity of heterogeneity and the double inscription of the political 
objective is not merely the repetition of a general truth about discourse 
introduced into the political field. De nying an_ essentialist logic and a 
mi metic referent to political repr esentation a a sfaQnj^principl ed argu- 
ment against political separatism of^ any colour, and cuts through the 
moralism that usua J]y-accompames..sucn.,-daims. There is literally, and 
figuratively, no space for the unitary or organic political objective which 
would offend against the sense of a socialist community of interest and 

In Britain, in the 1980s, no political struggle was fought more power- 
fully, and sustained more poignantly, on the values and traditions of a 
socialist community than the miners' strike of 1984-5. The battalions of 
monetarist figures and forecasts on the profitability of the pits were 
starkly ranged against the most illustrious standards of the British 
labour movement, the most cohesive cultural communities of the 
working class. The choice was clearly between the dawning world of 
the new Thatcherite city gent and a long history of the working man, 
or so it seemed to the traditional left and the new right. In these class 
terms the mining women involved in the strike were applauded for the 
heroic supporting role they played, for their endurance and initiative. 
But the revolutionary impulse, it seemed, belonged securely to the 
working-class male. Then, to commemorate the first anniversary of 
the strike, Beatrix Campbell, in the Guardian, interviewed a group 
of women who had been involved in the strike. It was clear that their 
experience of the historical struggle, their understanding of the historic 
choice to be made, was startlingly different and more complex. Their 
testimonies would not be contained simply or singly within the priorities 
of the politics of class or the histories of industrial struggle. Many of 
the women began to question their roles within the family and the 
community - the two central institutions which articulated the meanings 
and mores of the tradition of the labouring classes around which ideo- 
logical battle was enjoined. Some challenged the symbols and authorities 
of the culture they fought to defend. Others disrupted the homes they 
had struggled to sustain. For most of them there was no return, no 
going back to the 'good old days'. It would be simplistic -to suggest 
either that this considerable social change was a spin-off from the class 



struggle or that it was a repudiation of the politics of class from a 
socialist-feminist perspective. There is no simple political or social truth 
to be learned, for there is no unitary representation of a political agency, 
no fixed hierarchy of political values and effects. 

My illustration, attempts to display fee importance of fee hybrid 
moment of politic al, change. Here fee_ J rarefonnational valu e of cKange 
UejjnJthe_jrearticulation, or translation, af elements Jhat^re neither the 
One (unitary jvoj ^ but 
somethin g^else {^ irfes^which cohteste^the terms andjejrritories oFboth. 
there isa negotiation between gender and class, where each formation 
encounters the displaced, differentiated boundaries of its group rep- 
resentation and enunciative sites in which the limits and limitations of 
social power are encountered in an agonistic relation. When it is sug- 
gested that the British Labour Party should seek to produce a socialist 
alliance among progressive forces that are widely dispersed and distri- 
buted across a range of class, culture and occupational forces - without 
a unifying sense of the class for itself - the kind of hybridity that I have 
attempted to identify is being acknowledged as a historical necessity. 
We need a little less pietistic articulation of political principle (around 
class and nation); a little more of the principle of political negotiation. 

This seem s to be the theoretical issue at the heart of Stuart Hall's 
arguments for the construction of a counter-hegemonic power bloc 
ffirougTi'whdch a socialist party might construct its majority, its cqnstitu- 
ency; and the Labour Party might (in)conceivably improve its image. 
The- -unemployed,- semi-skilled and unskilled, part-time workers, male 
and female, the low paid, black people, underclasses: these signs of the 
fragmentation of class and cultural consensus represent both the histori- 
cal experience of contemporary social divisions, and a structure of het- 
erogeneity upon which to construct a theoretical and political 
alternative. For Hall , the imperative is to construct a new social bloc of 
different constituencies, through the production of a form of symbolic 
identification that would result in a collective will. The Labour Party, 
with its desire to reinstate its traditionalist image - white, male, working 
class, trade union based - is not hegemonic enough, Hall writes. He is 
right; what remains unanswered is whether the rationalism and inten- 
tionally that propel the collective will are compatible with the language 
of symbolic image and fragmentary identification that represents, for 
Hall and for 'hegemony'/ 'counter-hegemony', the fundamental political 
issue. Can there ever be hegemony enough, except in the sense that a 
two-thirds majority will elect us a socialist government? 

It is by intervening in Hall's argument that the necessities of nego- 
tiation are revealed. The interest of Hall's position lies in his acknow- 
ledgement, remarkable for the British left, that, though influential, 
'material interests on their own have no necessary class belongingness.' 9 



This has two significant effects. It enables Hall to see the agents of 
political change as discontinuous, divided subjects caught in conflicting 
interests and identities. Equally, at the historical level of a Thatcherite 
population, he asserts that divisive rather than solidary forms of identi- 
fication are the rule, resulting in undecidabilities and aporia of political 
judgement. What does a working woman put first? Which of her identi- 
ties is the one that determines her political choices? The answers to such 
questions are defined, according to Hall, in the ideological definition of 
materialist interests; a process of symbolic identification achieved 
through a political technology of imaging that hegemonically produces 
a social bloc of the right or the left. Not only is the social bloc hetero- 
geneous, but, as I see it, the work of hegemony is itself the process of 
iteration and differentiation. It depends on the production of alternative 
or antagonistic images that are always produced side by side and in 
competition with each other. It is this side-by-side nature, this partial 
presence, or metonymy of antagonism, and its effective significations, 
that give meaning (quite literally) to a politics of struggle as the struggle 
of identifications and the war of positions. It is therefore problematic to 
think of it as sublated into an image of the collective will. 

Hegemony requires iteration and alterity to be effective, to be pro- 
ductive of politicized populations: the (non-homogeneous) symbolic- 
social bloc needs to represent itself in a solidary collective will - a 
modem image of the future - if those populations are to produce 
a progressive government. Both may be necessary but they do not easily 
follow from each other, for in each case the mode of representation and 
its temporality are different. The contribution of negotiation is to display 
the 'in-between' of this crucial argument; it is not self-contradictory but 
significantly performs, in the process of its discussion, the problems 
of judgement and identification that inform the political space of its 

For the moment, the act of negotiation will only be interrogatory. Can 
such split subjects and differentiated social movements, which display 
ambivalent and divided forms of identification, be represented in a 
CQlJectiv.e~will_that^ .distinctively echoes Gramsci's enlightenment inheri- 
tance and its rationalism? 10 How does the language of the will accommo- 
date the vicissitudes of its representation, its construction through a 
symbolic majority where the have-nots identify themselves from the 
position of the haves? How do we construct a politics based on such a 
displacement of affect or strategic elaboration (Foucault), where political 
positioning is ambivalently grounded in an acting-out of political fan- 
tasies that require repeated passages across the differential boundaries 
between one symbolic bloc and an other, and the positions available to 
each? If such is the case, then how do we fix the counter-image of 
socialist hegemony to reflect the divided will, the fragmented 



population? If the policy of hegemony is, quite literally, unsignifiable 
without the metonymic representation of its agonistic and ambivalent 
structure of articulation, then how does the collective will stabilize and 
unify its address as an agency of representation, as representative of a 
people? How do we avoid the mixing or overlap of images, the split 
screen, the failure to synchronize sound and image? Pejhaps_w£_need 
tp-changg the ocular language of the image in order to talk of the social 
an d polit ical identifications or representations of a people. It is worth 
noting that Laclau and Mouf f e have turned to the language of textuality 
and discourse, to differance and enunciative modalities, in attempting 
to understand the structure of hegemony." Paul Gilroy also refers to 
Bakhtin's theory of narrative when he describes the performance of 
black expressive cultures as an attempt to transform the relationship 
between performer and crowd 'in dialogic rituals so that spectators 
acquire the active role of participants in collective processes which are 
sometimes cathartic and which may symbolize or even create a com- 
.munity' (my emphasis). 12 

Such negotiations between politics and theory make it impossible to 
think of the place of the theoretical as a metanarrative claiming a more 
total form of generality. Nor is it possible to claim a certain familiar 
epistemological distance between the time and place of the intellectual 
and the activitist, as Fanon suggests when he observes that 'while 
politicians situate their action in actual present-day events, men of cul- 
ture take their stand in the field of history' 13 It is precisely that popular 
binarism between theory and politics, whose foundational basis is a 
view of knowledge as totalizing generality and everyday life as experi- 
ence, subjectivity or false consciousness, that I have tried to erase. It is 
a distinction that even Sartre subscribes to when he describes the com- 
mitted intellectual as the theoretician of practical knowledge whose 
defining criterion is rationality and whose first project is to combat 
the irrationality of ideology. 14 From the perspective of negotiation and 
translation, contra Fanon and Sartre, there can be no final discursive 
closure of theory. It does not foreclose on the political, even though 
battles for power-knowledge may be won or lost to great effect. The 
coroUaryjis that there is no first or final act of revolutionary social (or 
socialist) transformation. 

I hope it is clear that this erasure of the traditional boundary between 
theory /politics, and my resistance to the en-closure of the theoretical, 
wRther it is read negatively as elitism or positively as radical supra- 
rationality, do not turn on the good or bad faith of the activist agent or 
the intellectual agent provocateur. I am primarily concerned with the 
conceptual structuring of the terms - the theoretical/the political - that 
inform a range of debates around the place and time of the committed 
intellectual. I have therefore argued for a certain relation to knowledge 



which I think is crucial in structuring our sense of what the object of 
theory may be in the act of determining our specific political objectives. 


What is at stake in the n aming... o f c ritical theory as 'Western'? It is. 
obviously, a designation of institutio nal power and ideological Eu rocen- 
tricity CriticarmTOryoHen" engages with texts within the familiar rra- 
ditions and conditions of colonial anthropology either to universalize 
their meaning within its own cultural and academic discourse, or to 
sharpen its internal critique of the Western logocentric sign, the idealist 
subject, or indeed the illusions and delusions of civil society. This is a 
familiar manoeuvre of theoretical knowledge, where, having opened up 
the chasm of cultural difference, a mediator or metaphor of otherness 
must be found to contain the effects of difference. In order to be insti- 
tutionally effective as a discipline, the knowledge of cultural difference 
must be made to foreclose on the Other; differen ce, and, othemess^thua 
became-the-fantasy ...of- a -certain cultural space or, indeed, the certainty 
of a form of theoretical knowledge that deconstructs the epistemological 
'edge' of the West. 

More significantly, the site of cultural difference can become the mere 
phantom of a dire disciplinary struggle in which it has no space or 
power. Montesquieu's Turkish Despot, Barthes's Japan, Kristeva's China, 
Derrida's Nambikwara Indians, Lyotard's Cashinahua pagans are part 
of this strategy of containment where the Other text is forever the 
exegetical horizon of difference, never the active agent of articulation. 
The Other is cited, quoted, framed, illuminated, encased in the shot/ 
reverse-shot strategy of a serial enlightenment. Narrative and the cultural 
politics of difference become the closed circle of interpretation. The 
Other loses its power to signify, to negate, to initiate its historic desire, 
to establish its own institutional and oppositional discourse. However 

anffethnrcentrically it is represented, it is its location as the closure of 
gTanH t heorie s, ^''d«S)ffira1Ka^'^'arudyt^' terms, "lFbe always the 
good object of knowledge, the docile body of difference, that reproduces 
a "reTahoh "of domination and is the most serious indictment of the 
institutional powers of critical theory. 

There is, however, a distinction to be made between the institutional 
history of critical theory and its conceptual potential for change and 
innovation. Althusser's critique of the temporal structure of the 
Hegelian-Marxist expressive totality, despite its functionalist limitations, 
opens up the possibilities of thinking the relations of production in a 
time of differential histories. Lacan's location of the signifier of desire, 
on the cusp of language and the law, allows the elaboration of a form 



of social representation that is alive to the ambivalent structure of subjec- 
tivity and sociality. Foucault's archaeology of the emergence of modem, 
Western man as a problem of finitude, inextricable from its afterbirth, 
its Other, enables the linear, progressivist claims of the social sciences - 
the major imperializing discourses - to be confronted by their own 
historicist limitations. These arguments and modes of analysis can be 
dismissed as i temal squabbles around Hegelian causality, psychic rep- 
resentation or sociological theory. Alternatively, they can be subjected 
to a translation, a transformation of value as part of the questioning of 
the project of modernity in the great, revolutionary tradition of C. L R. 
James - contra Trotsky or Fanon, contra phenomenology and existentialist 
psychoanalysis. In 1952, it was Fanon who suggested that an oppo- 
sitional, differential reading of Lacan's Other might be more relevant 
for the colonial condition than the Marxisant reading of the master-slave 

It may be possible to produce such a translation or transformation if 
we understand the tension within critical theory between its institutional 
containment and its revisionary force. The continual reference to the 
horizon of other cultures which I have mentioned earlier is ambivalent. 
It is a site of citation, but it is also a sign that such critical theory cannot 
forever sustai its position in the academy as the adversarial cutting 
edge of Western idealism. What is required is to demonstrate another 
territory of translation, another testimony of analytical argument, a dif- 
ferent engagement i the politics of and around cultural domi ation. 
What this other site for theory might be will become clearer if we 
first see that ma ny pos tetructuralist ideas are themselves opposed to 
EnUghtenmenrhumanism and aesthetics. They constitute i no less than a 
decOnstruction of Ihe moment of the modern, its legal values) its literary, 
tastes, its philosophical and political categorical imperatives. Secondly, 
arid more importantly, we must rehistoricize the moment of 'me" emerg- 
ence' of the sign', or 'thft jpe^tipn > _^ 'ttje.,.sijhjeGtV- or the 'discursive 
construction of social reality' to quote a few popular fepics of contem- 
porary theory. This can only happen if we relocate the referential and 
institutional demands of such theoretical work i the field of cultural 
difference - not cultural diversity. 

Such a reorientation may be found in the historical texts of the colonial 
moment in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. For at the 
same time as the question of cultural difference emerged in the colonial 
text, discourses of civility were defining the doubli g moment of the 
emergence of Western modernity. Thus the political and theoretical gen- 
ealogy of modernity lies not only i the origins of the idea of civility, 
but in this history of the colonial moment. It is to be found i the 
resistance of the colonized populations to the Word of God and Man - 
Christianity and the English language. The transmutations and! trans- 



lations of indigenous traditions in their opposition to colonial authority 
demonstrate how the desire of the signifier, the indeterminacy of inter- 
textuahty, can be deeply engaged in the postcolonial struggle against 
dominant relations of power and knowledge. In the following words of 
thelnissionary master we hear, quite distinctly, the oppositional voices 
of a culture of resistance; but we also hear the uncertain and threatening 
process of cultural transformation. I quote from A. Duff's influential 
India and India Missions (1839): 

Come to some doctrine which you believe to be peculiar to Revel- 
ation; tell the people that they must be regenerated or bom again, 
else they can never 'see God'. Before you are aware, they may go 
away saying, 'Oh, there is nothing new or strange here; our own 
Shastras tell us the same thing; we know and believe that we must 
be bom again; it is our fate to be so.' But what do they understand 
by the expression? It is that they are to be bom again and again, 
in some other form, agreeably to their own system of trans- 
migration or reiterated births. To avoid the appearance of coun- 
tenancing so absurd and pernicious a doctrine, you vary your 
language, and tell them that there must be a second birth - that 
they must be twice-bom. Now it so happens that this, and all 
similar phraseology, is preoccupied. The sons of a Brahman have 
to undergo various purificatory and initiatory ceremonial rites, 
before they attain to full Brahmanhood. The last of these is the 
investiture with the sacred thread; which is followed by the com- 
munication of the Gayatri, or most sacred verse in the Vedas. 
This ceremonial constitutes, 'religiously and metaphorically, their 
second birth'; henceforward their distinctive and peculiar appel- 
lation is that of the twice-bom, or regenerated men. Hence it is 
your improved language might only convey the impression that all must 
become perfect Brahmans, ere they can 'see God'. ls (My emphasis) 

The grounds of evangelical certitude are opposed not by the simple 
assertion of an antagonistic cultural tradition. The process of translation 
is the opening up of another contentious political and cultural site at 
the heart of colonial representation. Here the word of divine authority 
is deeply flawed by the assertion of the indigenous sign, and-i»-the 
very practice of domination the language of the master becomes hybrid 

- nj^jnier tr«'(^^jE3ngjaorAe other. The incalculable colonized subject 

- half acquiescent, half oppositional, always untrustworthy - produces 
an unresolvable problem of cultural difference for the very address of 
colonial cultural authority. The 'subtile system of Hinduism', as the 
missionaries in the early nineteenth century called it, generated tremen- 
dous policy implications for the institutions of Christian conversion. 
The written authority of the Bible was challenged and together with it 



a postenlighterunent notion of the 'evidence of Christianity' and its 
historical priority, which was central to evangelical colonialism. The 
Word could no longer be trusted to carry the truth when written or 
spoken in he colonial world by he European missionary. Native cat- 
echists herefore had to be found, who brought with them their own 
cultural and political ambivalences and contradictions, often under great 
pressure from their families and communities. 

This revision of the history of critical heory rests, I have said, on he 
notion of cul ural difference, not cul ural diversity. Cul ural diversity is 
an epistemological object - cul ure as an object of empirical knowledge 
- whereas cul ural difference is the process of the enunciation of cul ure 
as 'knowledgeaWe', authoritative, adequate to he construction of sys- 
tems of cultural identification. If cul ural diversity is a category of 
comparative ethics, aes hetics or ethnology, cul ural difference is a pro- 
cess of signification through which statements of cul ure or on culture 
differentiate, discriminate and au horize the production of fields of force, 
reference, applicability and capacity. Cultural diversity is he recognition 
of pre-given cul ural contents and customs; held in a time-frame of 
relativism it gives rise to liberal notions of multiculturalism, cul ural 
exchange or the cul ure of humanity. Cul ural diversity is also the 
representation of a radical rhetoric of he separation of totalized cultures 
hat live unsullied by he intertex uality of heir historical locations, safe 
in he Utopianism of a mythic memory of a unique collective identity. 
Cultural diversity may even emerge as a system of he articulation 
and exchange of cul ural signs in certain early structuralist accounts of 

Through he concept of cultural difference I want to draw attention 
to the common ground and lost territory of contemporary critical 
debates. For hey all recognize hat the problem of cul ural interaction 
emerges only at he significatory boundaries of cultures, where mean- 
ings and values are (mis)read or signs are misappropriated. Cul ure 
only emerges as a problem, or a problematic, at the point at which there 
is a loss of meaning in he contestation and articulation of everyday 
life, between classes, genders, races, na ions. Yet he reality of the limit 
or limit-text of cul ure is rarely heorized outside of well-intentioned 
moralist polemics against prejudice and stereotype, or he blanket 
assertion of individual or insti u ional racism - that describe he effect 
ra her han he struc ure of the problem. The need to think he limit 
of culture as a problem of he enuncia ion of cultural difference is 

The concept of cultur a l difference focus<eg_j©„titig..js^^nMof the 
amEaakP^^ to dominate i n the nam e 

of-a-cultural supremajya»4achJ^Jtself, j^duc ed only i n the 'moment of 
differentiation- And it is he very au hority of culture as a knowledge 



of referential truth which is at issue in the concept and moment of 
enunciation. The en unciative process intioducp,^^iUtjii~ft»e-perfera\- 
ative present of cultural identification; a split between the traditional 
culruralistfleffiand for a model, a tradition, a community, a stable system 
of reference, a^0SS£2&s§sary negatiojLfliLthe cextitudein the. articu- 
lation of new cultural demands, meanings, strategies in the political 
present, as a prachci oFdommation, or resistance. The struggle is often 
between the historicist teleological or mythical time and narrative of 
traditionalism - of the right or the left - and the shifting, strategically 
displaced time of the articulation of a historical politics of negotiation 
which I suggested above. The time of liberation is, as Fanon powerfully 
evokes, a time of cultural uncertainty, and, most crucially, of significatory 
or representational undecidability: 

But [native intellectuals] forget that the forms of thought and what 
[they] feed . . . on, together with modem techniques of information, 
language and dress, have dialectically reorganized the people's 
intelligences and the constant principles (of national art) which acted 
as safeguards during the colonial period are now undergoing 
extremely radical changes. . . . [We] must join the people in that 
fluctuating movement which they are just giving a shape to . . . 
which will be the signal for everything to be called into question 
... it is to the zone of occult instability where the people dwell that 
we must come. 16 (My emphases) 

The enunciation of cultural difference problematizes the binary division 
of past and present, tradition and modernity, at the level of cultural 
representation and its authoritative address. It is the problem of how, 
in signifying the present, something comes to be repeated, relocated 
and translated in the name of tradition, in the guise of a pastness that 
is not necessarily a faithful sign of historical memory but a strategy of 
representing authority in terms of the artifice of the archaic. That iter- 
ation negates our sense of the origins of the struggle. It undermines our 
sense of the homogenizing effects of cultural symbols and icons, by 
questioning our sense of the authority of cultural synthesis in general. 

This demands that we rethink our perspective on the identity of 
culture. Here Fanon's passage - somewhat reinterpreted - may be help- 
ful. What is implied by his juxtaposition of the constant national prin- 
ciples with his view of culture-as-political-struggle, which he so 
enigmatically and beautifully describes as 'the zone of occult instability 
where the people dwell'? These ideas not only help to explain the nature 
of colonial struggle; they also suggest a possible critique of the positive 
aesthetic and political values we ascribe to the unity or totality of 
cultures, especially those that have known long and tyrannical histories 
of domination and misrecognition. Cultures jare never unitary in 



themselves, ngr simply dualistic in the relation . of Self toJDther. This is 
not because^ some humanistic nostrum that beyond individual cultures 
we all belong to the human culture of mankind; nor is it because of an 
ethical relativism which suggests that in our cultural capacity to speak 
of and judge others we necessarily 'place ourselves in their position', in 
a kind of relativism of distance of which Bernard Williams has written 
at length. 17 

The reason a cultural text or system of meaning cannot be sufficient 
unto itselFTsTthat the act of cultural enunciation - tije gZace of utterance 
- is crossed by the differance of writing. This has less to_3o with what 
anthrDpologists might describe as varying attitudes to symbolic systems 
within different cultures than with the structure of symbolic represen- 
tation itself - not the content of the symbol or its social function, hut, 
the ^ra^egjai^s^^pzaia^ It^i^tihi^j^ference in the , process of 
language that is crucial to the production of meaning and ensures, at 
the same time, that meaning is never simply mimetic and transparent 

The linguistic difference that informs any cultural performance is 
dramatized in the common semiotic account of the dis juncture etween 
the subject of a_p rj)pps.iti" n ^nrmrf\ jmAjhe^ subject of enunciation, 
whirh is nlR~rFpr o P o "» ofl in *h*M»*?M* M *v ; "*t isIffi&Ii£^owJe4ge- 

ity, its reference to a p resent time and a-3pgQ&Lggace. The pact of 
interpretation is never simply an act of communication between the I 
and the You designated in the statement. The pro duction of meaning 
requires that these two places be mobilized in the passage through a" 

and the specific Mnplication of the uttera^ a m p^rjcamajto.jmd. 
institutional strategy of which it cannot 'in itself' be conscious. What 
this unconscious relation introduces is an ambivalence in the act of 
interpretation. The pronominal I of the proposition cannot be made to 
address - in its own words - the subject of enunciation, for this is not 
personable, but remains a spatial relation within the schemata and 
strategies of discourse. The meaning of the utterance is quite literally 
neither the one nor the other. This ambivalence is emphasized when we 
realize that there is no way that the content of the proposition will 
reveal the structure of its positionality; no way that context can be 
mimetically read off from the content. 

The implication of this enunciative split for cultural analysis that I 
especially want to emphasize is its temporal dimension. The splitting 
of the subject of enunciation destroys the logics of synchronicity and 
evolution which traditionally authorize the subject of cultural 
knowledge. It is often taken for granted in materialist and idealist 
problematics that the value of culture as an object of study, and the 
value of any analytic activity that is considered cultural, lie in a capacity 



to produce a cross-referential, generalizable unity that signifies a pro- 
gression or evolution of ideas-in-time, as well as a critical self -reflection 
on their premisses or determinants. It would not be relevant to pursue 
the detail of this argument here except to demonstrate - via Marshall 
Sahlins's Culture and Practical Reason - the validity of my general charac- 
terization of the Western expectation of culture as a disciplinary practice 
of writing. I quote Sahlins at the point at which he attempts to define 
the difference of Western bourgeois culture: 

We have to do not so much with functional dominance as with 
structural - with different structures of symbolic integration. And to 
this gross difference in design correspond differences in symbolic 
performance between an open, expanding code, responsive by con- 
tinuous permutation to events it has itself staged, and an apparently 
static one that seems to know not events, but only its own precon- 
ceptions. The gross distinction between 'hot' societies and 'cold', 
development and underdevelopment, societies with and without 
history - and so between large societies and small, expanding and 
self-contained, colonizing and colonized. 18 (My emphases) 

The intervention of the Third Space of enunciation, which makes the 
structure of meaning and reference an ambivalent process, destroys this 
mirror of representation in which cultural knowledge is customarily 
revealed as an integrated, open, expanding code. Such an intervention 
quite properly challenges our sense of the historical identity, of culture 
as aJhomo£e.n^ by the originary Past 

kept alive in the national tradition of the People. In other words, the 
disruptive temporality of enunciation displaces the narrative of the 
Western nation which Benedict Anderson so perceptively describes as 
being written in homogeneous, serial time. 19 

It is only when we understand that all cultural statements and systems 
are constructed in this contradictory and ambivalent space of enunci- 
ation, that we begin to understand why hierarchical claims to the 
inherent originality or 'purity' of cultures are untenable, even before we 
resort to empirical historical instances that demonstrate their hybridity. 
Fanon's vision of revolutionary cultural and political change as a 'fluc- 
tuating movement' of occult instability could not be articulated as cul- 
tural practice without an acknowledgement of this indeterminate space 
of the subject(s) of enunciation. It is that Third Space, though unrep- 
resentable in itself, which constitutes the discursive conditions "orenu'nci- 
^ li o n H St^nsure that the meaning and symbols of j:\dture have no 
pnmsrdiajLOT^SI Sxity; fhaTeven the samesl ghs ca n be appropriated, 
translated, rehistoricized and read anew. 

Fanon's moving metaphor - when reinterpreted for a theory of cul- 
tural signification - enables us to see not only the necessity of theory, 



but also the restrictive notions of cultural identity with which we burden 
our visions of political change. For Fanon, the liberatory people who 
initiate the productive instability of revolutionary cultural change are 
themselves the bearers of a hybrid identity. They are caught in the 
discontinuous time of translation and negotiation, in the sense in which I 
have been attempting to recast these words. In the moment of liberatory 
struggle, the Algerian people destroy the continuities and constancies 
of the nationalist tradition which provided a safeguard against colonial 
cultural imposition. They are now free to negotiate and translate their 
cultural identities in a discontinuous intertextual temporality of cultural 
difference. The native intellectual who identifies the people with the 
true national culture will be disappointed. The people are now the very 
principle of 'dialectical reorganization' and they construct their culture 
from the national text translated into modern Western forms of infor- 
mation technology language, dress. The changed political and historical 
site of enunciation transforms the meanings of the colonial inheritance 
into the liberatory signs of a free people of the future. 

I have been stressing a certain void or misgiving attending every 
assimilation of contraries - I have been stressing this in order to 
expose what seems to me a fantastic mythological congruence of 

elements And if indeed therefore any real sense is to be made 

of material change it can only occur with an acceptance of a 
concurrent void and with a willingness to descend into that void 
wherein, as it were, one may begin to come into confrontation 
with a spectre of invocation whose freedom to participate in an 
alien territory and wilderness has become a necessity for one's 
reason or salvation. 20 

This meditation by the great Guyanese writer Wilson Harris on the void 
of misgiving in the textuality of colonial history reveals the cultural and 
historical dimension of that Third Space of enunciations which I have 
made the precondition for the articulation of cultural difference. He sees 
it as accompanying the 'assimilation of contraries' and creating that 
occult instability which presages powerful cultural changes. It is signifi- 
cant that the productive capacities of this Third Space have a colonial 
or postcolonial provenance. For a willingness to descend into that alien 
territory - where I have led you - may reveal that the theoretical 
recognition of the split-space of enunciation may o pen the way to con- 
ceptualizin g an wtennatio jaLxu^ of 
mlMc^ftiralism"o^^ and 

it is the 'inte r' - t he cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in - 
bet ween sp ace - that carries ^ the burd e n of the meaning of culture. It 
makes it possible to begin envisaging national, anti-nationalist histories 



of the 'people'. And by exploring this Third Space, we may elude the 
politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves. 




Frantz Fanon and the postcolonial 


To read Fanon is to experience the sense of division that prefigures - 
and fissures - the emergence of a truly radical thought that never 
dawns without casting an uncertain dark. Fanon is the purveyor of 
the transgressive and transitional truth. He may yearn for the total 
transformation of Man and Society, but he speaks most effectively from 
the uncertain interstices of historical change: from the area of ambiv- 
alence between race and sexuality; out of an unresolved contradiction 
between culture and class; from deep within the struggle of psychic 
representation and social reality. His voice is most clearly heard in the 
subversive turn of a familiar term, in the silence of sudden rupture: 
'77k Negro is not. Any more than the white man.' 1 The awkward division 
that breaks his line of thought keeps alive the dramatic and enigmatic 
sense of change. That familiar alignment of colonial subjects - Black/ 
White, Self /Other - is disturbed with one brief pause and the traditional 
grounds of racial identity are dispersed, whenever they are found to 
rest in the narcissistic myths of negritude or white cultural supremacy. 
It is this palpable pressure of division and displacement that pushes 
Fanon's writing to the edge of things - the cutting edge that reveals no 
ultimate radiance but, in his words, 'exposed an utterly naked declivity 
where an authentic upheaval can be bom'. 2 

The psychiatric hospital at Blida-Joinville is one such place where, in 
the divided world of French Algeria, Fanon discovered the impossibility 
of his mission as a colonial psychiatrist: 

If psychiatry is the medical technique that aims to enable man no 
longer to be a stranger to his environment, I owe it to myself to 
affirm that the Arab, permanently an alien in his own country, 
lives m a state of absolute depersonalization. . . . The social struc- 



ture existing in Algeria was hostile to any attempt to put the 
individual back where he belonged. 3 

The extremity of this colonial alienation of the person - this end of 
the 'idea' of the individual - produces a restless urgency in Fanon's 
search for a conceptual form appropriate to the social antagonism of 
the colonial relation. The body of his work splits between a Hegelian- 
Marxist dialectic, a phenomenological affirmation of Self and Other and 
the psychoanalytic ambivalence of the Unconscious. In his desperate, 
doomed search for a dialectic of deliverance Fanon explores the edge 
of these modes of thought: his Hegelianism restores hope to history; his 
existentialist evocation of the T restores the presence of the marginal- 
ized; his psychoanalytic framework illuminates the madness of racism, 
the pleasure of pain, the agonistic fantasy of political power. 

As Fanon attempts such audacious, often impossible, transformations 
of truth and value, the jagged testimony of colonial dislocation, its 
displacement of time and person, its defilement of culture and territory, 
refuses the ambition of any total theory of colonial oppression. The 
Antillean evolue cut to the quick by the glancing look of a frightened, 
confused, white child; the stereotype of the native fixed at the shifting 
boundaries between barbarism and civility; the insatiable fear and desire 
for the Negro: 'Our women are at the mercy of Negroes . . . God knows 
how they make love'; 4 the deep cultural fear of the black figured in the 
psychic trembling of Western sexuality - it is these signs and symptoms 
of the colonial condition that drive Fanon from one conceptual scheme 
to another, while the colonial relation takes shape in the gaps between 
them, articulated to the intrepid engagements of his style. As Fanon's 
texts unfold, the scientific fact comes to be aggressed by the experience 
of the street; sociological observations are intercut with literary artefacts, 
and the poetry of liberation is brought up short against the leaden, 
deadening prose of the colonized world. 

What is the distinctive force of Fanon's vision? It comes, I believe, 
from the tradition of the oppressed, the language of a revolutionary 
awareness that, as Walter Benjamin suggests, 'the state of emergency in 
which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a 
concept of history that is in keeping with this insight.' 5 And the state 
of emergency is also always a state of miergence. T^e struggle against 
colonial oppression, not only changes the direction of Western history, 
but. challenges, its historicist idea of time as a progressive, ordered 
whole. The analysis of colonial depersonalization not only alienates the 
Enlightenment idea of 'Man', but challenges the transparency of social 
reality, as a pre-given image of human knowledge. If the order of 
Western historicism is disturbed in the colonial state of emergency, even 
more deeply disturbed is the social and psychic representation of the 



human subject. For thever^jjature of humanity becomesj|strajiged_in 
the colo nial condition andjfrom that 'nakeB HecTivity^n^merges, not as 
an assefnon ot will noFas an evocation of freedom, but as an enigmatic 
questioning. With a question that echoes Freud's 'What does woman 
want?', Fanon turns to confront the colonized world. 'What does a 
man want?' he asks, in the introduction to Black Skin, White Masks; 
'What does the black man want?' 

To this loaded question where cultural alienation bears down on the 
ambivalence of psychic identification, Fanon responds with an agonizing 
performance of self-images: 

I had to meet the white man's eyes. An unfamiliar weight bur- 
dened me. In the white world the man of color encounters difficul- 
ties in the development of his bodily schema I . was battered 

[ &Qwn by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual deficiency, fetisTusirC 
racial. defects. ... I took myself far off from my own presence. . . . 
What else could it be for me but an amputation, an excision, a 
haemorrhage that spattered my whole body with black blood? 6 

From within the metaphor of vision complicit with a Western meta- 
physic of Man emerges the displacement of the colonial relation. The 
black presence runs the representative narrative of Western personhood: 
its past tethered to treacherous stereotypes of primitivism and degener- 
acy will not produce a history of civil progress, a space for the Socius; 
its present, dismembered and dislocated, will not contain the image of 
identity that is questioned in the dialectic of mind /body and resolved 
in the epistemology of appearance and reality. The white man's eyes 
break up the black m an's fecdy-and in that act of episterrric violence its 
own frame of reference is transgressed, its held of vision disturbed. 

'What does the black man want?' Fanon insists, and in privileging the 
psychic dimension he not only changes what we understand by a politi- 
cal demand but transforms the very means by which we recognize and 
identify its human agency. Fanon is not principally posing the question 
of political oppression as the violation of a human essence, although he 
lapses into such a lament in his more existential moments. He isjiot. 
raising the question of colonial man in the universalist terms of the 
fiBerattuTmamsF(ff6w does colonialism deny the Rights of Man?); nor 
is he posing an ontological question about Man's being (Who is the 
alienated- colonial man?). Fanon's question is addressed not to such a 
urufie^rTotion of history nor to such a unitary concept of man. It is one 
of the original and disturbing qualities of Black Skin, White Masks that 
it rarely historicizes the colonial experience. There is no master narrative 
or realist perspective that provides a background of social and historical 
facts against which emerge the problems of the individual or collective 
psyche. Such a traditional sociological alignment of Self and Society or 



History and Psyche is rendered questionable in Fanon's identification 
of the colonial subject who is historicized in the heterogeneous assem- 
blage of the texts of history, literature, science, myth.^5J£-fi°lani3lsiihj«* 
is^afaa ys 'oTerdeter mined from without^, Fanonwrites. 7 It is through 
image and fantasy "Ihose orders that figure transgressively on the 
borders of history and the unconscious - that Fanon most profoundly 
evokes the colonial condition. 

In articulating the problem of colonial cultural alienation in the 
psychoanalytic language of demand and desire, Fanon radically ques- 
tions the formation of both individual and social authority as they come 
to be developed in the discourse of social sovereignty. The social virtues 
of historical rationality, cultural cohesion, the autonomy of individual 
consciousness assume an immediate, Utopian identity with the subjects 
on whom they confer a civil status. The civil state is the ultimate 
expression of the innate ethical and rational bent of the human mind; the 
social instinct is the progressive destiny of human nature, the necessary 
transition from Nature to Culture. The direct access from individual 
interests to social authority is objectified in the representative structure 
of a General Will - Law or Culture - where Psyche and Society mirror 
each other, transparently translating their difference, without loss, into 
a historical totality. Forms of social and psychic alienation and 
aggression - madness, self-hate, treason, violence - can never be ack- 
nowledged as determinate and constitutive conditions of civil authority, 
or as the ambivalent effects of the social instinct itself. They are always 
explained away as alien presences, occlusions of historical progress, the 
ultimate misrecognition of Man. 

For Fanon such a myth of Man and Society is fundamentally under- 
mined in the colonial situation. Everyday life exhibits a 'constellation 
of delirium' that mediates the normal social relations of its subjects: 
"The Negro enslaved by his inferiority, the white man enslaved by his 
superiority alike behave in accordance with a neurotic orientation.' 8 
Fanon's demand for a psychoanalytic explanation emerges from the 
perverse reflections of civil virtue in the alienating acts of colonial 
(governance: the visibility of cultural mummification in t he coloniz er's 
avowed arobitioii_to-jciyilize--or-nra the natiye— that _results in 

'archaic inert institutions JtijaJLfjJnction] under the oppressor's super- 
visierEH^^caTOature of formerly Fertile in^tuh^^ 
of violence in the very definition social space; or the 

viability of the febrile, phantasmic images of racial hatred that come to 
be absorbed and acted out in the wisdom of the West. These interpo- 
sitions, indeed collaborations of political and psychic violence within 
civic virtue, alienation within identity, drive Fanon to describe the split- 
ting of the colonial space of consciousness and society as marked by a 
'Manichaean delirium'. 



The representative figure of such a perversion, I want to suggest, is 
the image of post-Enlightenment man tethered to, not confronted by, his 
dark reflection, the shadow of colonized man, that splits his presence, 
distorts his outline, breaches his boundaries, repeats his action at a 
distance, disturbs and divides the very time of his being. The ambivalent 
identification of the racist world - moving on two planes without being 
in the least embarrassed by it, as Sartre says of the anti-Semitic con- 
sciousness - rums on the idea of man as his alienated image; not Self 
and Other but fee otherness pf the Self .ins cribed in the peiyersgpahmp- 
sest of colonial identity. . And it is that bizarre figure of desire, which 
splits along the axis on which it rums, that compels Fanon to put the 
psychoanalytic question of the desire of the subject to the historic con- 
dition of colonial man. 

[ 'What is often ca^.lhq.WgfSfcLflOMl.ia a White IM^^J^fy^ Fanon 
writes. 10 This transference speaks otherwise. It reveals the deep psychic 
uncertainty of .the colonial relation itself: its split representations stage 
the division of body and soul that enacts the artifice of identity,, a 
division that cuts across the fragile skin - black and white - of individual 
and social authority. Three conditions that underlie an understanding 
of the process of identification in the analytic of desire emerge. 

|)firsf:;to exist is to be called into being in relation to an otherness, its. 
look or locus.. It is, .a demand that reaches outward to an external object 
and as Jacqueline Rose writes, Ttjsjhe, relation of this demand to the 
place of the object it claims that becomes the basis for identification.'" 
This process is visible in the exchange of looks between native and 
settler that structures their psychic relation in the paranoid fantasy of 
boundless possession and its familiar language of reversal: IWhen their 
■ glances meet he [the settle r} ascertains bitterly t ,ajways on thg defensive, 
OTiey want to take our place '' I^isJi^i©£Jhejaysj^ does 
not dre^r ri at leas t once a day of setting himself up in the settler's 
|£la^iJL^-always inrelation"to"tiie place of the Other mat toloniaJ 
desire is articulated: th&jAanjaiimic^sBaiX ^POssession that no o ne 
' subject can s^ dream 

' fSecoridi the very place of identification, caught in the tension of 
demand and desire, is a space of spkttmg ~.Ibe Jfantasy ^f^gjg^tijg^ 
gged&dy ff> "'jTffi'Y ftt f'^fciptafla whilr keeping his place in the 
slave's avenging anger. JMack skirv white masks' is ■ not a neat division; 
i t is a doubling, dissembling image of being in at least two places at 
once that makes it impossible for the devalued, insatiable evolue (an 
abandonment neurotic, Fanon claims) to accept the colonizer's invitation 
to identity: 'You're a doctor, a writer, a student, you're different, you're 
one of us.' _Xt is precisely in. .that ambivalent use of 'different. - to be 

di fferent from those mat are differ ,the~game - .^h gt fee 



TftKTHfTfiW "pH"* t1na > ftHTI flf < ft lt T» Q Pi the tetiraed shadow of 

0^e^but_the disturbing distance in-between that constitutes the figure 
pi_cplonial otherness - Jhe white man's artifice inscribed., on Jhe„ blajc^ 
man's body. It is in relation to this impossible object that the liminal 
problem of colonial identity and its vicissitudes emerges. 

Finally^tiie question of identification is never the affirmation of a pre- 
given identity, never a sef/-fulfilling prophecy - it is alwa ys the pro- 
duction of _an image of identity and the transf ormation of the subject in 
assuming that image. The demand of identification - that is, to be for 
an Other - entails the representation of the subject in. the differentiating 
order of otherness^ Identification, as we inferred from the preceding 
illustrations, is always the return of an image of identity that bears the 
mark of splitting in the Other place from which it comes. For Fanon, 
like Lacan, the primary moments of such a repetition of the self lie in 
the desire of the look and the limits of language. The 'atmosphere of 
certain uncertainty' that surrounds the body certifies its existence and 
threatens its dismemberment. 


Listen to my friend, the Bombay poet Adil Jussawalla, writing of the 
'missing person' that haunts the identity of the postcolonial bourgeoisie: 

No Satan 

warmed in the electric coils of his creatures 
or Gunga Din 

will make him come before you. 

To see an invisible man or a missing person, 

trust no Eng. Lit. That 

puffs him up, narrows his eyes, 

scratches his fangs. Caliban 

is still not IT. 

But faintly pencilled 

behind a shirt . . . 

savage of no sensational paint, 
fangs cancelled. 13 

As that voice falters listen to its echo in the verse of a black woman, 
descendant of slaves, writing of the diaspora: 

We arrived in the Northern Hemisphere 
when summer was set in its way 
running from the flames that lit the sky 



over the Plantation. 

We were a straggle bunch of immigrants 
in a lily white landscape. 

One day I learnt 
a secret art, 

Invisible-Ness, it was called. 
I think it worked 
as even now you look 
but never see me . . . 

Only my eyes will remain to watch and to haunt, 
and to rum your dreams 
to chaos. 14 

As these images fade, and the empty eyes endlessly hold their menac- 
ing gaze, listen finally to Edward Said's attempt to historicize their 
chaos of identity: 

One aspect of the electronic, postmodern world is that there has 
been a reinforcement of the stereotypes by which the Orient is 

viewed If the world has become immediately accessible to a 

Western citizen living in the electronic age, the Orient too has 
drawn nearer to him, and is now less a myth perhaps than a place 
criss-crossed by Western, especially American interests. 15 

I use these postcolonial portraits because they seize on the vanishing 
point of Jwo familiar traditions in the disc ourse o f identity : the philo- 
sophical tradition jrf. identity as the process of self -reflection in the 
mirror of (human) nature; and the anthropological view of the difference 
of Jhuman Jdentity as located in the division of Nature/Culture. In the 
pQstfY>1r>nial fa»v» rtw» problem of identity upturns as a persistent question- 
ing of the frame, the space of representation, where the image - jrni.ssing 
person,, invisible eye, Oriental stereotype - is confronted with its differ- 
ence, ifs Other. This is neither the glassy essence of Nature, to use 
Richard Rorty's image, nor the leaden voice of 'ideological interpel- 
lation', as Louis Althusser suggests. 

What is so graphically enacted in the moment of colonial identification 
is the splitting of the subject in its historical place of utterance: 'No 
Satan . . ./or Gunga Din/will make him come before you/To see an 
invisible man or a missing person,/ trust no Eng. Lit.' (my emphases). 
What these repeated negations of identity dramatize, in their elision of 
the seeing eye that must contemplate what is missing or invisible, 
is the Jmjjj^ibiMtyj)/ claiming an origin for the Self (or Other) within 
a tradition of representation that conceives of identity as the satisfaction 
of a totalizing, plenitudinous object of vision. By disrupting the stab- 



ility of the ego, expressed in the equivalence between image and identity, 
the secret art of invisibleness of which the migrant poet speaks 
changes the ^very terms of our recognition of the person. 

This change is precipitated by the peculiar temporality whereby the 
^biect^cannot^be apprehended without the absence or . invisibility that 
constitutes it - 'as even now you look/but never see me' - so that the 
subject speaks, and is seen, from where it is not; and the migrant .woman, 
can subvert the perverse satisfaction of the racist, masculinist gaze_that 
disavowed, her presence, by presenting it with an anxious absence, a 
counter-gaze mat turns the discriminatory look, which denies her cul- 
tural and sexual difference, back on itself. 

The familiar space of the Other (in the process of identification) 
develops a graphic historical and cultural specificity in the splitting of 
the ppstcolonial or migrant subject. In place of that T - institutionalized 
in the visionary, authorial ideologies of Eng. Lit. or the notion of 'experi- 
ence' in the empiricist accounts of slave history -Jhere emerges .the 
challenge to see what is invisible, the look that cannot 'see me', a certain 
problem of the object of the gaze that constitutes a problematic referent 
for the language of the Self. The elision of the eye, represented in a 
narrative of negation and repetition - no . . . no . . . never ^insists that 
the phrase of identity cannot be spoken, except by putting the eye/I 
in the impossible position of enunciation. To see a missing person, or to 
look at Invisibleness, is to emphasize the subject's transitive demand for 
a direct object of self-reflection, a point of presence that would maintain 
its privileged enunciatory position qua subject. To see a missing person is 
to transgress that demand; the T in the position of mastery is, at that 
same time, the place of its absence, its re-presentation. We witness the 
alienation of the eye through the sound of the signifier as the scopic 
d.esire (to look/ to be looked at) emerges and is erased in the feint of 

But faintly pencilled 

behind a shirt, 

a trendy jacket or tie 

if he catches your eye, 

he'll come screaming at you like a jet - 

savage of no sensational paint, 

fangs cancelled. 

Why does the faintly pencilled person fail to catch your eye? What is 
the secret of Invisibleness that enables the woman migrant to look 
without being seen? 

What is interrogated is not simply the image of the person, but the 
discursive and disciplinary place from which questions of identity are 
strategically and institutionally posed. Through the progress of this 



poem 'you' are continually positioned in the space between a range of 
contradictory places that coexist. So that you find yourself at the point 
at which the Orientalist stereotype is evoked and erased at the same time, 
in the place where Eng. Lit. is entstellt in the ironic mimicry of its Indo- 
Anglican repetition. And this space of reinscription must be thought 
outside of those metaphysical philosophies of self-doubt, where the 
otherness of identity is the anguished presence within the Self of an 
existentialist agony that emerges when you look perilously through a 
glass darkly. 

What is profoundly unresolved, even erased, in the discourses of 
poststructuralism is that perspective of depth through which the authen- 
ticity of identity comes to be reflected in the glassy metaphorics of the 
mirror and its mimetic or realist narratives. Shifting the frame of identity 
from the field of vision to the space of writing interrogates the third 
dimension that gives profundity to the representation of Self and Other 
- that depth of perspective that cineastes call the forth wall; literary 
theorists describe it as the transparency of realist metanarratives. Barthes 
brilliantly diagnoses this as I'effet du reel, the 'profound, geological 
dimension' 16 of signification, achieved by arresting the linguistic sign in 
its symbolic function. The bilateral space of the symbolic consciousness, 
Barthes writes, massively privileges resemblance, constructs an analogical 
relation between signifier and signified that ignores the question of 
form, and creates a vertical dimension within the sign. In this scheme 
the signifier is always predetermined by the signified - that conceptual 
or real space that is placed prior to, and outside of, the act of signifi- 

From our point of view, this verticality is significant for the light it 
sheds on that dimension of depth that provides the language of Identity 
with its sense of reality - a measure of the 'me', which emerges from 
an acknowledgement of my inwardness, the depth of my character, the 
profundity of my person, to mention only a few of those qualities 
through which we commonly articulate our self -consciousness. My argu- 
ment about the importance of depth in the representation of a unified 
image of the self is bome out by the most decisive and influential 
formulation on personal identity in the English empiricist tradition. 

John Locke's famous criteria for the continuity of consciousness could 
quite regifimafely be read in the symbolic register of resemblance and 
analogy. For the sameness of a rational being requires a consciousness of 
the past which is crucial to the argument - 'as far as this consciousness 
can be extended backwards to any past action or thought, so far reaches 
the identity of that person' - and is precisely the unifying third 
dtoerMonTThe^gencjrof depth brings together in an analogical relation 
(dismissive of the differences that construct temporality and 
signification) 'that same consciousness uniting those distant actions into 



the same person, whatever substances contributed to their production' (my 
emphasis). 17 

Barthes's description of the sign-as-symbol is conveniently analogous 
to the language we use to designate identity. At the same time, it sheds 
light on the concrete linguistic concepts with which we can grasp how 
the language of personhood comes to be invested with a visuality or 
visibility of depth. This makes the moment of self-consciousness at 
once refracted and transparent; the question of identity always poised 
uncertainly, tenebrously, between shadow and substance. The symbolic 
consciousness gives the sign (of the Self) a sense of autonomy or solitar- 
iness 'as if it stands by itself in the world' privileging an individuality 
and a unitariness whose integrity is expressed in a certain richness of 
agony and anomie. Barthes calls it a mythic prestige, almost totemic in 
'its form [which is] constantly exceeded by the power and movement 
of its content; . . . much less a codified form of communication than an 
(affective) instrument of participation.' 18 

This image of human identity and, indeed, human identity as image 
- boffi laTruliar frames or mirrors of selfhood that speak from deep 
within Western culture - are inscribed in the sign of resemblance. The 
analogical relation unifies 'tte explKence of self-consciqusness by fincT- 
mgf wifhin the mirror of nature, the symbolic certitude of the sign of 
culture based 'on an analogy with the compulsion to believe when 
staring at an object'. 19 This, as Rorty writes, is part of the West's 
obsession that our primary relation to objects and ourselves is analogous 
to^ual^erception. Pre-eminent among these representations has been 
the reflection of the self that develops in the symbolic consciousness 
of the sign. It marks out the discursive space from which 77k real Me 
emerges (initially as an assertion of the authenticity of the person) and 
then lingers on to reverberate - 77k real Me? - as a questioning of 

My purpose here is to define the space of the inscription or writing 
of identity - beyond the visual depths of Barthes's symbolic sign The 
experience of the disseminating self-image goes beyond representation 
as the analogical consciousness of resemblance. This is not a form of 
dialectical contradiction, the antagonistic consciousness of master and 
slave, that can be sublated and transcended. The impasse or aporia of 
consciousness that seems to be the representative postmodernist experi- 
ence is a peculiar strategy of doubling. 

Each time the encounter with identity .occurs at the point at which 
something exceeds the frame of the image,, it eludes the eye, evacuates 
the self as site of ident ity and autonomy and - most important - leave s 
a resistant trace, a stain of the subject, a sign of resistance. We are no 
longer confronted with an ontological problem of being but with the 
discursive strategy of the moment of interrogation, a moment in which 



.the demand for identification becomes, ^primarily, a response to other 
questions of signification and desire, culture and politics. 

In place of the symbolic consciousness that gives the sign of identity 
its integrity and unity, its depth, we are faced with a dime nsion of 
doubling; a spatialization of the subject, that is occluded in the illusory 
perspective of what I have called the 'third dimension' of the mimetic 
frame or visual image of identity. The figure of the double - to which 
I now turn - cannot be contained within the analogical sign of resem- 
blance; as Barthes said, this developed its totemic, vertical dimension 
only because 'what interests it in the sign is the signified: the signifier 
is always a determined element/ 20 For poststructuralist discourse, the 
priority (and play) of the signifier reveals the space of doubling (not 
depth) that is the very articulatory principle of discourse. It is through 
that space of enunciation that problems of meaning and being enter the 
discourses of poststructuralism, as the problematic of subjection and 

What emerges in the preceding poems, as the line drawing of trendy 
jacket and tie, or the eerie, avengeful disembodied eye, must not be 
read as a revelation of some suppressed truth of the postcolonial 
psyche /subject. In the world of double inscriptions that we have now 
entered, in this space of writing, there can be no such immediacy of a 
visualist perspective, no such face-to-face epiphanies in the mirror of 
nature. On one level, what confronts you, the reader, in the incomplete 
portrait of the postcolonial bourgeois - who looks uncannily like the 
metropolitan intellectual - is the ambivalence of your desire for the 
Other: 'You! hypocrite lecteur! - mon semblable, - mon frere!' 

That disturbance of your voyeuristic look enacts the complexity and 
contradictions of your desire to see, to fix cultural difference in a contain- 
able, visible object. The^draireJpxJb^Jitbfirjs doubled by the desire in 
language, which splits the-diffefmce beween Self and Other so that both 
positions are partial; neither is sufficient unto itself. As I have just 
shown in the portrait of the missing person, the very question of identi- 
fication only emerges in-between disavowal and designation. It is per- 
formed in the agonistic struggle between the epistemological, visual 
demand for a knowledge of the Other, and its representation in the act 
of articulation and enunciation. 

Look, a Negro . . . Mama, see the Negro! I'm frightened ... I could 
no longer laugh, because I already know where there were legends, 
stories, history, and above all historicity Then, assailed at vari- 
ous points, the corporeal schema crumbled, its place taken by a 
racial epidermal schema. ... It was no longer a question of being 
aware of my body in the third person but in a triple person ... I 
was responsible for my body, for my race, for my ancestors. 21 



JFangti&-Black~Skin T White-Masks reveals the doubtinj^ identity: the 
difference between personal iden.tit^as.jan,m 

u^SSon^bektg^ and the psychoanalytic problem o f identification that 
always begs the question of the subject: 'What does a man want?' The 
emergence of the human subject as socially and psychically authenti- 
cated depends on the negation of an originary narrative of fulfilment, or 
of an imaginary coincidence between individual interest or instinct and 
the General Will. Such binary, two-part, identities function in a kind of 
narcissistic reflection of the One in the Other, confronted in the language 
of desire by the psychoanalytic process of identification. For identifi- 
cation, identity is never an a priori, nor a finished product; it is only 
ever the problematic process of access to an image of totality. The 
discursive conditions of this psychic image of identification will be 
clarified if we think of the perilous perspective of the concept of the 
image itself. For the image - as point of identification - marks the site 
of an ambivalence. Its representation is always spatially split - it makes 
present something that is absent - and temporally deferred: it is the 1 
representation of a time that is always elsewhere, a repetition. 

The image is only ever an appurtenance to authority and identity; it 
must never be read mimetically as the appearance of a reality. The 
access to the image of identity is only ever possible in the negation of 
any sense of originality or plenitude; the process of displacement and 
differentiation (absence/presence, representation/ repetition) renders it 
a liminal reality. The_image is^at once a metaphoric substitution, an 
illusion of presence, and by that same token a metonym, a sign of its 
absence {8^MtmTl~is™prec^y~fr6in this edge of meaning and Being, 
from this sWfting boundary of otherness within identity, that Fanon 
asks: 'What does a black man want?' 

When it encounters resistance from the other, self-consciousness 

undergoes the experience of desire As soon as I desire I ask to 

be considered. I am not merely here and now, sealed into thingness. 
I am for somewhere else and for something else. I demand that 
notice be taken of my negating activity in so far as I pursue 
something other than life. . . . 

I occupied space. I moved towards the other . . . and the evan- 
escent other, hostile, but not opaque, transparent, not there, disap- 
peared. Nausea. 22 

From that overwhelming emptiness of nausea Fanon makes his 
answer: the black man wants the objectifying confrontation with other- 
ness; in the "colonial psyche there is an unconscious disav owal of the 
negating, splitting moment of desire. The place of tihgjQther mnst_noJ. 
be imaged, as Fanon sometimes suggesis,_a&..a fixeil^^nomfinnLigkal 
point opposed~to~The self, that represents a culturally alien conscious- 



ness. T he .Other mus t be seen as the necessary negation of a primordial 
Mentity - cultural or psychic - that introduces the system oflfiRererF 
tiation which enables the cultural to be signified as a linguistic, symbolic, 
historic reality. If, as I have suggested, the subject of desire is never 
simply a Myself, then the Other is never simply an It-self, a front of 
identity, truth or misrecognition. 

As a principle of identification, the Other bestows a degree of objec- 
tivity, but its representation - be it the social process of the Law or the 
psychic process of the Oedipus - is always ambivalent, disclosing a 
lack. For instance, the common, conversational distinction between the 
letter and spirit of the Law displays the otherness of Law itsel ; 
the ambiguous grey area between Justice and judicial procedure is, quite 
literally, a conflict of judgement. In the language of psychoanalysis, the 
Law of the Father or the paternal metaphor cannot be taken at its word. 
It is a process of substitution and exchange that inscribes a normative, 
normalizing place for the subject; but that metaphoric access to identity 
is exactly the place of prohibition and repression, a conflict of authority. 
Identification, as it is spoken in the desire of the Other, is always a 
question of interpretation, for it is the elusive assignation of myself with 
a one-sel , the elision of person and place. 

If the differentiating force of the Other is the process of the subject's 
signification in language and society's objectification in Law, then how 
can the Other disappear? Can desire, the moving spirit of the subject, 
ever evanesce? 


Lacan's excellent, if cryptic, suggestion that 'the Other is a dual entry 
matrix' 23 should be understood as the partial erasure of the depth perspec- 
tive of the symbolic sign; through the circulation of the signifier in its 
doubling and displacing, the signifier permits the sign no reciprocal, 
binary division of form/content, superstructure/infrastructure, self/ 
other. Itjs_only_bjM£iderstanding the ambivalence and the ant agonism 
of the desire ofthe~OTKer~ th^~w^^in~avoicriEeJmcreasmgly facile 
adoption of the notion of a homogenized Other, for a celebratory, oppo- 
sitional politics of the margins or mmoritjesj 

The performance of the doubleness or splitting of the subject is 
enacted in the writing of the poems I have quoted; it is evident in the 
play on the metonymic figures of 'missing' and 'invisibleness' around 
which their questioning of identity turns. It is articulated in those iterat- 
ive instances that simultaneously mark the possibility and impossibility 
of identity, presence through absence. 'Only my eyes will remain to 
watch and to haunt,' warns Meiling Jin as that threatening part object, 
the disembodied eye - the evil eye - becomes the subject of a violent 



discourse of ressentiment. Here, phantasmic and (pre)figurative rage 
erases the naturalistic identities of I and We that narrate a more conven- 
tional, even realist history of colonial exploitation and metropolitan 
racism, within the poem. 

The moment of seeing that is arrested in the evil eye inscribes a 
timelessness, or a freezing of time - 'remain/to watch and to haunt' - 
that can only be represented in the destruction of the depth associated 
with the sign of symbolic consciousness. It is a depth that comes from 
what Barthes describes as the analogical relation between superficial form 
and massive Abgrund: the 'relation of form and content [as] ceaselessly 
renewed by time (history); the superstructure overwhelmed by the infra- 
structure, without our ever being able to grasp the structure itself.' 24 

The eyes that remain - the eyes as a kind of remainder, producing an 
iterative process - cannot be part of this plenitudinous and progressive 
renewal of time or history. They are the signs of a structure of writing 
history, a history of the poetics of postcolonial diaspora, that the symbolic 
consciousness could never grasp. Most significantly, these partial eyes 
bear witness to a woman's writing of the postcolonial condition. Their 
circulation and repetition frustrate both the voyeuristic desire for the 
fixity of sexual difference and the fetishistic desire for racist stereotypes. 
The gaze of the evil eye alienates both the narratorial I of the slave and 
the surveillant eye of the master. It unsettles any simplistic polarities or 
binarisms in identifying the exercise of power - Self /Other - and erases 
the analogical dimension in the articulation of sexual difference. It is 
empty of that depth of verticality that creates a totemic resemblance of 
form and content (Abgrund) ceaselessly renewed and replenished by the 
groundspring of history. The evil eye - like the missing person - is 
nothing in itself; and it is this structure of difference that produces the 
hybridity of race and sexuality in the postcolonial discourse. 

The elision of identity in these tropes of the 'secret art of Invisibleness' 
from which these writers speak is not an ontology of lack that, on its 
other side, becomes a nostalgic demand for a liberatory, non-repressed 
identity. It is the uncanny space and time between those two moments 
of being, their incommensurable differences - if such a place can be 
imagined - signified in the process of repetition, that give the evil eye 
or the missing person their meaning. Meaningless in/as themselves, 
these figures initiate the rhetorical excess of social reality and the psychic 
reality of social fantasy. Their poetic and political force develops through 
a certain strategy of duplicity or doubling (not resemblance, in Barthes's 
sense), which Lacan has elaborated as 'the process of gap' within which 
the relation of subject to Other is produced. 25 The primary duplicity 
of the missing person pencilled in before your eyes, or the woman's 
eyes that watch and haunt, is this: although these images emerge with 
a certain fixity and finality in the present, as if they are the last word on 



the subject, they cannot identify or interpellate identity as presence. This 
is because they are created in the ambivalence of a double time of 
iteration that, in Derrida's felicitous phrase, 'baffles the process of 
appearing by dislocating any orderly time at the center of the present'. 26 
The effect of such baffling, in both poems, is to initiate a principle of 
undecidability in the signification of part and whole, past and present, 
self and Other, such that there can be no negation or transcendence of 

The naming of the missing person as 'Savage of no sensational paint' 
is a case in point. The phrase, spoken at the end of Adil Jussawalla's 
poem, neither simply returns us to the Orientalist discourse of stereo- 
types and exotica - Gunga Din - enshrined in the history of Eng. Lit., 
nor allows us to rest with the line drawing of the missing person. The 
reader is positioned - together with the enunciation of the question of 
identity - in an undecidable space between 'desire and fulfillment, 

between perpetration and its recollection Neither future nor present, 

but between the two.' 27 The repetition of the Orientalia and their 
imperialist past are re-presented, made present semantically, within the 
same time and utterance as that in which their representations are 
negated syntactically - 'no sensational paint/Fangs cancelled.' From that 
erasure, in the repetition of that 'no', without being articulated at all in 
the phrase itself, emerges the faintly pencilled presence of the missing 
person who, in absentia, is both present in, and constitutive of, the 
savagery. Can you tell the postcolonial bourgeois and the Western intel- 
lectual elite apart? How does the repetition of a part of speech - no! - 
rum the image of civility into the double of savagery? What part does 
the feint of writing play in evoking these faint figures of identity? And, 
finally, where do zve stand in that uncanny echo between what may be 
described as the attenuation of identity and its simulacra? 

These questions demand a double answer. In each of them I have 
posed a theoretical problem in terms of its political and social effects. 
It is the boundary between them that I have tried to explore in my 
vacillations between the texture of poetry and a certain textuality of 
identity. One answer to my questions would be to say that we now 
stand at the point in the poststructuralist argument where we can see 
the doubleness of its own grounds: the uncanny sameness-in-difference, 
or the alterity of Identity of which these theories speak, and from which, 
in forked tongues, they communicate with each other to constitute those 
discourses that we name postmodernist. The rhetoric of repetition or 
doubling that I have traced displays the art of becoming through a certain 
metonymic logic disclosed in the 'evil eye' or the 'missing person'. 
Metonymy, a figure of contiguity that substitutes a part for a whole (an 
eye for an I), must not be read as a form of simple substitution or 
equivalence. Its circulation of part and whole, identity and difference, 



must be understood as a double movement that follows what Derrida 
calls the logic or play of the 'supplement': 

If it represents and makes an image, it is by the anterior default 
of a presence. Compensatory and vicarious, the supplement [evil 
eye] is an adjunct, a subaltern instance which takes - the - place. 
As substitute . . . [missing person] ... it produces no relief, its 
place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness. 
Somewhere something can be filled up of itself . . . only by allowing 
itself to be filled through sign and proxy. 28 

Having illustrated, through my reading of the poems above, the sup- 
plementary nature of the subject, I want to focus on the subaltern 
instance of metonymy, which is the proxy of both presence and the 
present: time (takes place on) and space (takes place of . . .) at once. To 
conceptualize this complex doubling of time and space, as the site of 
enunciation, and the temporal conditionality of social discourse, is both 
the thrill and the threat of the poststructuralist and postmodernist dis- 
courses. How different is this representation of the sign from the sym- 
bolic consciousness where, as Barthes said, the relation of form and 
content is ceaselessly renewed by Time (as the Abgrund of the historical)? 
The evil eye, which seeks to outstare linear, continuist history and rum 
its progressive dream into nightmarish chaos, is exemplary once more. 
What Meiling Jin calls 'the secret art of Invisible-Ness' creates a crisis 
in the representation of personhood and, at the critical moment, initiates 
the possibility of political subversion. Invisibility erases the self -presence 
of that T in terms of which traditional concepts of political agency and 
narrative mastery function. What takes (the) place, in Derrida's sup- 
plementary sense, is the disembodied evil eye, the subaltern instance, 
that wreaks its revenge by circulating, without being seen. It cuts across 
the boundaries of master and slave; it opens up a space in-between the 
poem's two locations, the Southern Hemisphere of slavery and the 
Northern Hemisphere of diaspora and migration, which then become 
uncannily doubled in the phantasmic scenario of the political uncon- 
scious. This doubling resists the traditional causal link that explains 
contemporary metropolitan racism as a result of the historical prejudices 
of imperialist nations. What it does suggest is the possibility of a new 
understanding of both forms of racism, based on their shared symbolic 
and spatial structures - Fanon's Manichaean structure - articulated 
within different temporal, cultural and power relations. 

The anti-dialectical movement of the subaltern instance subverts any 
binary or sublatory ordering of power and sign; it defers the object of 
the look - 'as even now you look/but never see me' - and endows it 
with a strategic motion, which we may here, analogously, name the 
movement of the death drive. The evil eye, which is nothing in itself, 



exists in its lethal traces or effects as a form of iteration that arrests time 

- death/chaos - and initiates a space of intercutting that articulates 
politics/psyche, sexuality /race. It does this in a relation that is differen- 
tial and strategic rather than originary, ambivalent rather than accumu- 
lative, doubling rather than dialectical. The play of the evil eye is 
camouflaged, invisible in the common, on-going activity of looking - 
making present, while it is implicated in the petrifying, unblinking gaze 
that falls Medusa-like on its victims - dealing death, extinguishing both 
presence and the present. There is a specifically feminist re-presentation 
of political subversion in this strategy of the evil eye. The disavowal of 
the position of the migrant woman - her social and political invisibility 

- is used by her in her secret art of revenge, mimicry. In that overlap of 
signification - in that fold of identification as cultural and sexual differ- 
ence - the T is the initial, initiatory signature of the subject; and the 
'eye' (in its metonymic repetition) is the sign that initiates the terminal, 
arrest, death: 

as even now you look 

but never see me . . . 

Only my eyes will remain to haunt, 

and to rum your dreams 

to chaos. 

It is in this overlapping space between the fading of identity and its 
faint inscription that I take my stand on the subject, amidst a celebrated 
gathering of poststructuralist thinkers. Although there are significant 
differences between them, I want to focus here on their attention to the 
place from which the subject speaks or is spoken. 

For Lacan - who has used the arrest of the evil eye in his analysis of 
the gaze - this is the moment of 'temporal pulsation': '[The signifier 
in the field of the Other] petrif [ies] the subject in the same movement in 
which it calls the subject to speak as subject.' 29 

Foucault repeats something of the same uncanny movement of doub- 
ling when he elaborates on the 'quasi-invisibility of the statement': 

Perhaps it is like the over-familiar that constantly eludes one; those 
familiar transparencies, which although they conceal nothing in 
their density, are nevertheless not entirely clear. The enunciative 
level emerges in its very proximity. ... It has this quasi-invisibility 
of the 'there is,' which is effaced in the very thing of which one 

can say: 'there is this or that thing ' Language always seems to 

be inhabited by the other, the elsewhere, the distant; it is hollowed 
out by distance. 30 

Lyotard holds on to the pulsating beat of the time of utterance when 
he discusses the narrative of Tradition: 



Tradition is that which concerns time, not content. Whereas what 
the West wants from autonomy, invention, novelty, self-determi- 
nation, is the opposite - to forget time and to preserve, and 
accumulate contents. To rum them into what we call history and to 
think that it progresses because it accumulates. On the contrary, in 
the case of popular traditions . . . nothing gets accumulated, that 
is the narratives must be repeated all the time because they are 
forgotten all the time. But what does not get forgotten is the 
temporal beat that does not stop sending the narratives to oblivion. 

This is a situation of continuous embedding, which makes it 
impossible to find a first utterer. 31 


I may be accused of a form of linguistic or theoretical formalism, of 
establishing a rule of metonymy or the supplement and laying down 
the oppressive, even universalist, law of difference or doubling. How 
does the poststructuralist attention to ecriture and textuality influence 
my experience of myself? Not directly, I would answer, but then, have 
our fables of identity ever been unmediated by another; have they ever 
been more (or less) than a detour through the word of God, or the writ 
of Law, or the Name of the Father; the totem, the fetish, the telephone, 
the superego, the voice of the analyst, the closed ritual of the weekly 
confessional or the ever open ear of the monthly coiffeuse? 

I am reminded of the problem of self-portraiture in Holbein's 77k 
Ambassadors, of which Lacan produces a startling reading. The two still 
figures stand at the centre of their world, surrounded by the accoutre- 
ments of vanitas - a globe, a lute, books and compasses, unfolding 
wealth. They also stand in the moment of temporal instantaneity where 
the Cartesian subject emerges as the subjectifying relation of geometrical 
perspective, described above as the depth of the image of identity. But 
off-centre, in the foreground (violating the meaningful depths of the 
Abgrund), there is a flat spherical object, obliquely angled. As you walk 
away from the portrait and rum to leave, you see that the disc is a 
skull, the reminder (and remainder) of death, that makes visible nothing 
more than the alienation of the subject, the anamorphic ghost. 32 

Doesn't the logic of the supplement - in its repetition and doubling 
- produce a historylessness; a 'culture' of theory that makes it impossible 
to give meaning to historical specificity? This is a large question that I 
can only answer here by proxy, by citing a text remarkable for its 
postcolonial specificity and for its questioning of what we might mean 
by cultural specificity: 



A- 's a giggle now 

but on it Osiris, Ra. 

An \3T an er ... a cough, 

once spoking your valleys with light. 

But the a's here to stay. 

On it St. Pancras station, 

the Indian and African railways. 

That's why you learn it today. 

'Get back to your language,' they say. 

These lines come from an early section of Adil Jussawalla's poem 
'Missing Person'. They provide an insight into the fold between the 
cultural and linguistic conditions articulated in the textual economy that 
I have described as the metonymic or the supplementary. The discourse 
of poststructuralism has largely been spelled out in an intriguing rep- 
etition of a, whether it is Lacan's petit dbjet a or Derrida's differance. 
Observe, then, the agency of this postcolonial a. 

There is something supplementary about a that makes it the initial 
letter of the Roman alphabet and, at the same time, the indefinite article. 
What is dramatized in this circulation of the a is a double scene on a 
double stage, to borrow a phrase from Derrida. The A - with which the 
verse begins - is the sign of a linguistic objectivity, inscribed in the Indo- 
European language tree, institutionalized in the cultural disciplines of 
empire; and yet as the Hindi vowelvJT, which is the first letter of the 
Hindi alphabet and is pronounced as 'er', testifies, the object of linguistic 
science is always already in an enunciatory process of cultural trans- 
lation, showing up the hybridity of any genealogical or systematic 

Listen: 'An \3T an er ... a cough': in the same time, we hear the a 
repeated in translation, not as an object of linguistics, but in the act 
of the colonial enunciation of cultural contestation. This double scene 
articulates the ellipsis . . . which marks the differance between the Hindi 
sign \3T and the demotic English signifier - 'er, a cough'. It is through 
the emptiness of ellipsis that the difference of colonial culture is articu- 
lated as a hybridity acknowledging that all cultural specificity is belated, 
different unto itself - v3f . . . er . . . ugh! Cultures come to be represented 
by virtue of the processes of iteration and translation through which 
their meanings are very vicariously addressed to - through - an Other. 
This erases any essentialist claims for the inherent authenticity or purity 
of cultures which, when inscribed in the naturalistic sign of symbolic 
consciousness frequently become political arguments for the hierarchy 
and ascendancy of powerful cultures. 33 It is in this hybrid gap, which 
produces no relief, that the colonial subject takes place, its subaltern 



position inscribed in that space of iteration where <3T takes (the) place of 
er . 

If this sounds like a schematic, poststructuralist joke - 'it's all words, 
words, words . . .' - then I must remind you of the linguistic insistence 
in Clifford Geertz's influential statement that the experience of under- 
standing other cultures is 'more like grasping a proverb, catching an 
illusion, seeing a joke [or as I have suggested reading a poem] than it is 
like achieving communion.' 34 My insistence on locating the postcolonial 
subject within the play of the subaltern instance of writing is an attempt 
to develop Derrida's passing remark that the history of the decentred 
subject and its dislocation of European metaphysics is concurrent with 
the emergence of the problematic of cultural difference within eth- 
nology 35 He acknowledges the political nature of this moment but leaves 
it to us to specify it in the postcolonial text: 

'Wiped out,' they say. 

Turn left or right, 

there's millions like you up here, 

picking their way through refuse, 

looking for words they lost. 

You're your country's lost property 

with no office to claim you back. 

You're polluting our sounds. You're so rude. 

'Get back to your language,' they say. 36 

Embedded in these statements is a cultural politics of diaspora and 
paranoia, of migration and discrimination, of anxiety and appropriation, 
which is unthinkable without attention to those metonymic or subaltern 
moments that structure the subject of writing and meaning. Without the 
doubleness that I described in the postcolonial play of the 'a <3T', it 
would be difficult to understand the anxiety provoked by the hybridiz- 
ing of language, activated in the anguish associated with vacillating 
boundaries - psychic, cultural, territorial - of which these verses speak. 
Where do you draw the line between languages? between cultures? 
between disciplines? between peoples? 

I have suggested here that a subversive political line is drawn in a 
certain poetics of 'invisibility', 'ellipsis', the evil eye and the missing 
person - all instances of the 'subaltern' in the Derridean sense, and near 
enough to the sense that Gramsci gives the concept: '[not simply an 
oppressed group] but lacking autonomy, subjected to the influence or 
hegemony of another social group, not possessing one's own hegemonic 
position.' 37 It is with this difference between the two usages that notions 
of autonomy and domination within the hegemonic would have to be 
carefully rethought, in the light of what I have said about the proxy- 
mate nature of any claim to presence or autonomy. However, what is 



implicit in both concepts of the subaltern, as I read it, is a strategy of 
ambivalence in the structure of identification that occurs precisely in 
the elliptical in-between, where the shadow of the other falls upon the 

From that shadow (in which the postcolonial a plays) emerges cultural 
difference as an enunciative category; opposed to relativistic notions of 
cultural diversity, or the exoticism of the 'diversity' of cultures. It is the 
'between' that is articulated in the camouflaged subversion of the 'evil 
eye' and the transgressive mimicry of the 'missing person'. The force of 
cultural difference is, as Barthes once said of the practice of metonymy, 
'the violation of a signifying limit of space, it permits on the very level 
of discourse, a counterdivision of objects, usages, meanings, spaces and 
properties' (my emphasis). 38 

It is by placing the violence of the poetic sign within the threat of 
political violation that we can understand the powers of language. Then, 
we can grasp the importance of the imposition of the imperial a as the 
cultural condition for the very movement of empire, its bgomotion - 
the colonial creation of the Indian and African railways as the poet 
wrote. Now, we can begin to see why the threat of the (mis)translation 
of vJT and 'er', among the displaced and diasporic peoples who pick 
through the refuse, is a constant reminder to the postimperial West, of 
the hybridity of its mother tongue, and the heterogeneity of its national 


In his analytic mode Fanon explores such questions of the ambivalence 
of colonial inscription and identification. The state of emergency from 
which he writes demands insurgent answers, more immediate identifi- 
cations. Fanon frequently attempts a close correspondence between the 
mise-en-scene of unconscious fantasy and the phantoms of racist fear and 
hate that stalk the colonial scene; he turns from the ambivalences of 
identification to the antagonistic identities of political alienation and 
cultural discrimination. There are times when he is too quick to name 
the Other, to personalize its presence in the language of colonial racism 
- .ithe~rga1-Qther for the whitgjnan is and will continue to be tt?e_black- 
man^Au>t^a >»-gfsdy,' 39 Restormg~thTdfe^irrrte-its proper p ertitkaltime 
and cultural space can, at times, blunt the edge of Fanon's brilliant 
illustrations of the complexity of the psychic projections in the pathologi- 
cal colonial relation. Jean Veneuse, the Antillean evolue, desires not 
merely to be in the place of the white man but compulsively seeks to 
look back and down on himself from that position. Equally, the white 
racist cannot merely deny what he fears and desires by projecting it on 
'them'. Fanon sometimes forgets that social paranoia does not indefi- 



nitely authorize its projections. The compulsive, fantasmatic identifi- 
cation with a persecutory 'they' is accompanied, even undermined, by 
an emptying, an evacuation of the racist T who projects. 

Fanon's sociodiagnostic psychiatry tends to explain away the ambiva- 
lent turns and returns of the subject of colonial desire, its masquerade 
of Western Man and the 'long' historical perspective. It is as if Fanon is 
fearful of his most radical insights: that the politics of race will not be 
entirely contained within the humanist myth of man or economic necess- 
ity or historical progress, for its psychic affects question such forms of 
determinism; that social sovereignty and human subjectivity are only 
realizable in the order of otherness. It is as if the question of desire that 
emerged from the traumatic tradition of the oppressed has to be modi- 
fied, at the end of Black Skin, White Masks, to make way for an existential- 
ist humanism that is as banal as it is beatific: 

Why not the quite simple attempt to touch the other, to feel the 
other, to explain the other to myself? ... At the conclusion of this 
study, I want the world to recognize, with me, the open door of 
every consciousness. 40 

Despite Fanon's insight into the dark side of man, such a deep hunger 
for humanism must be an overcompensation for the closed conscious- 
ness or 'dual narcissism' to which he attributes the depersonalization 
of colonial man: 'There one lies body to body, with one's blackness or 
one's whiteness in full narcissistic cry, each sealed into his own particu- 
larity - with, it is true, now and then a flash or so.' 41 It is this flash of 
recognition - in its Hegelian sense with its transcendental, sublative 
spirit - that fails to ignite in the colonial relation where there is only 
narcissistic indifference 'And yet the Negro knows there is a difference. 

He wants it TheJEormer sjave^Qe^djS^ui]all^ ^ to his humanity.' 42 

In the absence of^ sjich_a_ chajlenge^ 

only imitate, a dfetin^gn mcely„mad,e by th e psydhoai^v^t- Annie 

Reich*: If is imitation . . . when the child holds the newspaper like his 

father. It is identification when the child learns to read/^Jn^isaiowjn^ 

tr^133ftuTairjrdiffereftfrale of the colonial world - i n demand- 


ambivalence of paranoic_idjmtife 


However, Fanon's Hegelian dream for a human reality in-itself-for- 
itself is ironized, even mocked, by his view of the Manichaean structure 
of colonial consciousness and its non-dialectical division. What he says 
in 77k Wretched of the Earth of the demography of the colonial city 
reflects his view of the psychic structure of the colonial relation. The 
native and settler zones, like the juxtaposition of black and white bodies, 



are opposed, but not in the service of a higher unity. No conciliation is 
possible, he concludes, for of the two terms one is superfluous. 

No, there can be no reconciliation, no Hegelian recognition, no simple, 
sentimental promise of a humanistic 'world of the You'. Can there be 
life without transcendence? Politics without the dream of perfectibility? 
Unlike Fanon, I think the non-dialectical moment of Manichaeanism sug- 
gests an answer. By following the trajectory of colonial desire - in the 
company of the bizarre colonial figure, the tethered shadow - it becomes 
possible to cross, even to shift the Manichaean boundaries. Where there 
is no human nature, hope can hardly spring eternal; but it emerges 
surely and surreptitiously in the strategic return of that difference that 
informs and deforms the image of identity, in the margin of otherness 
that displays identification. There may be no Hegelian negation, but 
Fanon must sometimes be reminded that the disavowal of the Other 
always exacerbates the edge of identification, reveals that dangerous 
place where identity and aggressivity are twinned. For denial is always 
a retroactive process; a half acknowledgement of that otherness has left 
its traumatic mark. 

In that uncertainty lurks the white-masked black man; and from such 
ambivalent identification - black skin, white masks - it is possible, I 
believe, to redeem the pathos of cultural confusion into a strategy of 
political subversion. We cannot agree with Fanon that 'since the racial 
drama is played out in the open the black man has no time to make it 
unconscious,' 44 but that is a provocative thought. In occupying two 
places at once - or three in Fanon's case - the depersonalized, dislocated 
colonial subject can become an incalculable object, quite literally difficult 
to place. The demand of authority cannot unify its message nor simply 
identify its subjects. For the strategy of colonial desire is to stage the 
drama of identity at the point which the black man slips to reveal 
the white skin. At the edge, in-between the black body and the white 
body, there is a tension of meaning and being, or some would say 
demand and desire, which is the psychic counterpart to that muscular 
tension that inhabits the native body: 

The symbols of social order - the police, the bugle calls in the 
barracks, military parades and waving flags - are at one and 
the same time inhibitory and stimulating: for they do not convey 
the message 'Don't dare to budge'; rather, they cry out 'Get ready 
to attack.' 45 

It is from such tensions - both psychic and political - that a strategy 
of subversion emerges. It is a mode of negation that seeks not to unveil 
the fullness of Man but to manipulate his representation. It is a form of 
power that is exercised at the very limits of identity and authority, in 
the mocking spirit of mask and image; it is the lesson taught by the 



veiled Algerian woman in the course of the revolution as she crossed 
the Manichaean lines to claim her liberty. In Fanon's essay 'Algeria 
unveiled' the colonizer's attempt to unveil the Algerian woman does 
not simply turn the veil into a symbol of resistance; it becomes a 
technique of camouflage, a means of struggle - the veil conceals bombs. 
The veil that once secured the boundary of the home - the limits of 
woman - now masks the woman in her revolutionary activity, linking 
the Arab city and French quarter, transgressing the familial and colonial 
boundary. As the veil is liberated in the public sphere, circulation 
between and beyond cultural and social norms and spaces, it becomes 
the object of paranoid surveillance and interrogation. Every veiled 
woman, writes Fanon, became suspect. And when the veil is shed in 
order to penetrate deeper into the European quarter, the colonial police 
see everything and nothing. An Algerian woman is only, after all, a 
woman. But the Algerian fidai is an arsenal, and in her handbag she 
carries her hand grenades. 

Remembering Fanon is a process of intense discovery and disorien- 
tation. Remembering is never a quiet act of introspection or retrospec- 
tion. It is a painful re-membering, a putting together of the dismembered 
past to make sense of the trauma of the present. It is such a memory 
of the history of race and racism, colonialism and the question of cultural 
identity, that Fanon reveals with greater profundity and poetry than any 
other writer. What he achieves, I believe, is something far greater: for 
in seeing the phobic image of the Negro, the native, the colonized, 
deeply woven into the psychic pattern of the West, he offers the master 
and slave a deeper reflection of their interpositions, as well as the hope 
of a difficult, even dangerous, freedom: 'It is through the effort to 
recapture the self and to scrutinize the self, it is through the lasting 
tension of their freedom that men will be able to create the ideal con- 
ditions of existence for a human world'. 46 

This leads to a meditation on the experience of dispossession and 
dislocation - psychic and social - which speaks to the condition of the 
marginalized, the alienated, those who have to live under the surveil- 
lance of a sign of identity and fantasy that denies their difference. In 
shifting the focus of cultural racism from the politics of nationalism to 
the politics of narcissism, Fanon opens up a margin of interrogation that 
causes a subversive slippage of identity and authority. Nowhere is this 
subaltern activity more visible than in his work itself, where a range of 
texts and traditions - from the classical repertoire to the quotidian, 
conversational culture of racism - vie to utter that last word that remains 

As a range of culturally and racially marginalized groups readily 
assume the mask of the black, or the position of the minority, not to 
deny their diversity, but audaciously to announce the important artifice 



of cultural identity and its difference, the need for Fanon becomes 
urgent. As political groups from different directions, refuse to homogen- 
ize their oppression, but make of it a common cause, a public image of 
the identity of otherness, the need for Fanon becomes urgent - urgent, 
in order to remind us of that crucial engagement between mask and 
identity, image and identification, from which comes the lasting tension 
of our freedom and the lasting impression of ourselves as others: 

In case of display . . . the play of combat in the form of intimi- 
dation, the being gives of himself, or receives from the other, 
something that is like a mask, a double, an envelope, a thrown-off 
skin, thrown off in order to cover the frame of a shield. It is 
through this separated form of himself that the being comes into 
play in his effects of life and death. 47 

The time has come to return to Fanon; as always, I believe, with a 
question: how can the human world live its difference; how can a human 
being live Other-wise? 


I have chosen to give poststructuralism a specifically postcolonial prov- 
enance in order to engage with an influential objection repeated by 
Terry Eagleton in his essay, "The politics of subjectivity': 

We have as yet no political theory, or theory of the subject, which 
is capable in this dialectical way of grasping social transformation 
as at once diffusion and affirmation, the death and birth of the 
subject - or at least we have no such theories that are not vacuously 
apocalyptic. 48 

Taking my lead from the 'doubly inscribed' subaltern instance, I 
would argue that it is the dialectical hinge between the birth and death 
of the subject that needs to be interrogated. Perhaps the charge that a 
politics of the subject results in a vacuous apocalypse is itself a response 
to the poststructuralist probing of the notion of progressive negation - 
or sublation - in dialectical thinking. The subaltern or metonymic are 
neither empty nor full, neither part nor whole. Their compensatory and 
vicarious processes of signification are a spur to social translation, the 
production of something else besides which is not only the cut or gap 
of the subject but also the intercut across social sites and disciplines. 
This hybridity initiates the project of political thinking by continually 
facing it with the strategic and the contingent, with the countervailing 
thought of its own 'unthought'. It has to negotiate its goals through an 
acknowledgement of differential objects and discursive levels articulated 
not simply as contents but in their address as forms of textual or narrative 



subjections - be they governmental, judicial or artistic. Despite its firm 
commitments, the political must always pose as a problem, or a ques- 
tion, the priority of the place from which it begins, if its authority is not to 
become autocratic. 

What must be left an open question is how we are to rethink ourselves 
once we have undermined the immediacy and autonomy of self-con- 
sciousness. It is not difficult to question the civil argument that the 
people are a conjugation of individuals, harmonious under the Law. We 
can dispute the political argument that the radical, vanguardist party 
and its masses represent a certain objectification in a historical process, 
or stage, of social transformation. What remains to be thought is the 
repetitious desire to recognize ourselves doubly, as, at once, decentred in 
the solidary processes of the political group, and yet, ourself as a con- 
sciously committed, even individuated, agent of change - the bearer of 
belief. What is this ethical pressure to 'account for ourselves' - but only 
partially - within a political theatre of agonism, bureaucratic obf uscation, 
violence and violation? Is this political desire for partial identification a 
beautifully human, even pathetic attempt to disavow the realization 
that, betwixt and besides the lofty dreams of political thinking, there exists 
an acknowledgement, somewhere between fact and fantasy, that the 
techniques and technologies of politics need not be humanizing at all, in 
no way endorsing of what we understand to be the human - humanist? 
- predicament. We may have to force the limits of the social as we 
know it to rediscover a sense of political and personal agency through 
the unthought within the civic and the psychic realms. This may be no 
place to end but it may be a place to begin. 




Stereotype, discrimination and the discourse 
of colonialism 

To concern oneself with the founding concepts of the entire history of 
philosophy, to deconstitute them, is not to undertake the work of the 
philologist or of the classic historian of philosophy. Despite appearances, 
it is probably the most daring way of making the beginnings of a step 
outside of philosophy. 

Jacques Derrida, 'Structure, sign and play' 1 

An important feature of colonial discourse is its dependence on the 
concept of 'fixity' in the ideological construction of otherness. Fixity,, 
as the sign of cultural/historical/racial difference in the discourse of 
colonialism, is a paradoxical mode of representation:, it connotes rigidity 
and ^n unchanging order as well as disorder, degeneracy and daemonic 
repetition. jSkewise Jth£.&ter.ejj!^e < which is its major discursive strategy,, 
is a form of knowledge and identification that vacillates between what is 
always 'in place', already known, and something that must be anxiously 
repeated ... as if the essential duplicity of the Asiatic or the bestial 
sexual licence of the African that needs no proof, can never really, in 

discourse, be proved. .It is this procgss^jof^BH ro^ ^I .central to. the 

stereotype^that this chapter explores as it constructs atneory of colonial, 
discourse. R^jjkJfrjgjo^ colonial stereo- 

type its currency: ensures its repeatability in changing historical and 
"j^^^iy^ ^^^Cfaj!^: ^ 01 ^ 5 ' ts strateg ies of indi viduation a nd_mar- 
gmaiizatian; prodT icesjh at effect of p robabilistic truth and predictability 
whichy Jor the stereotype, must always be l ^excessof what can fee 
empiricall¥.^XQ^sd-.Oi: J ^gioiliv^onstrue d. Yet the functioned jmhiy- 
alence as one of the most significant discursive and psychical strategies 
of discriminatory power - whether racist or sexist, peripheral or metro- 
politan - remains to be charted. " 

The absence of such a perspective has its own history of political 
expediency. To recognize the stereotype as an ambivalent mode of 
knowledge and power demands a theoretical and political response that 
challenges deterministic or functionalist modes of conceiving of the 



relationship between discourse and politics. The analytic of ambivalence 
questions dogmatic and moralistic positions on the meaning of 
oppression and discrimination. My reading of colonial discourse sug- 
gests that the point of intervention should shift from the ready recog- 
nition of images as positive or negative, to an understanding of the 
processes of subjectification made possible (and plausible) through stereo- 
typical discourse. To judge the stereotyped image on the basis of a prior 
political normativity is to dismiss it, not to displace it, which is only 
possible by engaging with its effectivity; with the repertoire of positions 
of power and resistance, domination and dependence that constructs 
colonial identification subject (both colonizer and colonized). I do not 
intend to deconstruct the colonial discourse to reveal its ideological 
misconceptions or repressions, to exult in its self-reflexivity, or to indulge 
its liberatory 'excess'. In order to understand the productivity of colonial 
power it is crucial to construcFTts regime of rlu^^lioTW^ur^ecrnS 
representa'ftons'ro'a normalizing judgement. Only then does it become 
rJD^bteTrrTmderstand"th¥ 'productive "ambivalence of the object oT coF 
o juaLcU^urse^^ is at^once'W'^l^jbabiesife- 

and derision, an articulation of difference contained within the fantasy 
of .origin and identity. What such a reading reveals are iheTwunaaries of 
clfloniaTcIiscourse and it enables a transgression of these limits from the 
space of that otherness. 

The construction of the colonial subject in discourse, and the exercise 
dL^Jonialjjciwer through discourse, demands. an.articulatipn pf„forms 
of difference -.racial and sexual. Such an articulation becomes crucial 
ifjt is^ held that the body is always simultaneously (if conflictually) 
inscribed in both the economy of pleasure i and L .desire_arid„Jb£.£SQQQiny 
of discourse, domination and power. I do not wish to conflate, unprob- 
lemah'caTIy, two forms of' the marking - and splitting - of the subject 
nor to globalize two forms of representation. I want to suggest, however, 
t hat t here js^Ji^ieJicalj^ 

lation - in the sense in which that word itself denies an 'original' identity 
or a 'smgularity' to objects of difference - sexual or racial. If such a 
view is taken, as Feuchtwang argues in a different context, 2 it follows 
that the epithets racial or sexual come to be seen as modes of differen- 
tiationjEealized as multiple, cross-cutting determinations, polymorphous 
and perverse, always demanding a specific and strategic calculation of 
their effects. Such is, I believe, the moment of colonial discou rse. It is a 
form of discourse crucial to the binding of a range of differences and 
discriminations that inform the discursive and political practices of racial 
and cultural hierarchization. 

Before turning to the construction of colonial discourse, I want to 
discuss briefly the process by which forms of racial/cultural/historical 
otherness have been marginalized in theoretical texts committed to the 




reveal the limits of Western repiesentationalist,discQurse. In facilitating 
the passage 'from work to text' and stressing the arbitrary, differential 
and systemic construction of social and cultural signs, these critical 
strategies unsettle the idealist quest for meanings that are, most often, 
intentionalist and nationalist. So much is not in question. What does 
need tqj^e^juestioned, however, id the mode of representation gfjithgnies&l 
^Kere better to raise the question of the subject of racial and cultural 
difference than in Stephen Heath's masterly analysis of the chiaroscuro 
world of Welles's classic, A Touch of Evil? I refer to an area of its analysis 
which has generated the least comment, that is, Heath's attention to the 
structuration of the Mexican lUS,.hQl<$£T that circulate s through th ejtext 
affirming and exchanging some notion of 'limited T>eing'. HeathCsj^ork 
departs from the traditional analysis of racial and cultural differences, 
which identify stereotype and image and elaborate them in a moralistic 
or nationalistic discourse that affirms the origin and unity of national 
identity. Heath's attentiveness to the contradictory and diverse sites 
within the textual system, which const uct national /cultural differences 
in their deployment of the semes of 'foreignness', 'mixedness', 
'impurity', as transgressive and corrupting, is extremely relevant. His 
attention to the turnings of this much neglected subject as sign (not 
symbol or stereotype) disseminated in the codes (as 'partition', 
'exchange', 'naming', 'character', etc.), gives us a useful sense of the 
circulation and proliferation of racial and cultural otherness. Despite 
the awareness of the multiple or cross-cutting determinations in the 
construction of modes of sexual and racial differentiation there is a 
sense in which Heath's analysis marginalizes otherness. Although I shall 
argue that me problem^ of the jMexican /US > bor der is read too singularly, 
top. exclusively under the sign of sexuality, it is not that I am not aware 
of the many proper and relevant reasons for that 'feminist' focus. The 
'entertainment' operated by the realist Hollywood film of the 1950s was 
always also a containment of the subject in a narrative economy of 
voyeurism and fetishism. Moreover, the displacement that organizes any 
textual system, within which the display of difference circulates, 
demands that thj j^ayj^'naticrialities' should participat in. the. sexual 
positioning, troubling, .the. Xi>v , and desire. There is, nevertheless, a 
singularity and reductiveness in concluding that: 

Vargas is the position of desire, its admission and its prohibition. 
Not surprisingly he has two names: the name of desire is Mexican, 
Miguel . . . that of the Law American - Mike. . . . The film uses the 
border, the play between American and Mexican ... at the same 
time it seeks to hold that play finally in the opposition of purity 
and mixture which in turn is a version of Law and desire. 3 



However liberatory it is from one position to see the logic of the text 
traced ceaselessly between the Ideal Father and the Phallic Mother, in 
another sense, seeing only one possible articulation of the differential 
complex 'race-sex', it half colludes with the proffered images of mar- 
ginality. For if the naming of Vargas is crucially mixed and split in the 
economy of desire, then there are other mixed economies which make 
naming and positioning equally problematic 'across the border'. To 
identify the 'play' on the border as purity and mixture and to see it as 
an allegory of Law and desire reduces the articulation of racial and 
sexual difference to what is dangerously close to becoming a circle 
rather than a spiral of difference. On that basis, it is not possible to 
construct the polymorphous and perverse collusion between racism and 
sexism as a mixed economy - for instance, the discourses of American 
cultural colonialism and Mexican dependency, the fear/desire of mis- 
cegenation, the American border as cultural signifier of a pioneering, 
male 'American' spirit always under threat from races and cultures 
beyond the border or frontier. If the death of the Father is the interrup- 
tion on which the narrative is initiated, it is through that death that 
miscegenation is both possible and deferred; if, again, it is the purpose 
of the narrative to restore Susan as 'good object', it also becomes its 
project to deliver Vargas from his racial 'mixedness'. 

These questions of race and representation have been pursued in the 
issue of Screen on the problems of 'Racism, colonialism and cinema'. 4 
This is a timely and welcome intervention in the debate on realist 
narrative and its conditions of existence and representability - a debate 
which has hitherto engaged mainly with the 'subject' of gender and 
class within the social and textual formations of Western bourgeois 
society. It would be inappropriate to review this issue of Screen here, 
but I would like to draw attention to Julianne Burton's 'The politics of 
aesthetic distance: the presentation of representation in S5o Bernardo'. 
Burton produces an interesting reading of Hirzman's SSo Bernardo as a 
specific Third World riposte of dualistic metropolitan debates around 
realism and the possibilities of rupture. Although she doesn't use Bar- 
thes, it would be accurate to say that she locates the film as the 'limit- 
text' of both its own totalitarian social context as well as contemporary 
theoretical debates on representation. 

Again, anti-colonialist objectives are admirably taken up by Robert 
Stam and Louise Spence in 'Colonialism, racism and representation', 
with a useful Brechtian emphasis on the politicization of the means of 
representation, specifically point-of-view and suture. But despite the 
shift in political objectives and critical methods, there remains in their 
essay a limiting and traditional reliance on the stereotype as offering, 
at any one time, a secure point of identification. This is not compensated 
for (nor contradicted by) their view that, at other times and places, the 



same stereotype may be read in a contradictory way or, indeed, be 
misread. What is, therefore, a simplification in the process of stereotyp- 
ical representation has a knock-on effect on their central point about the 
politics of point-of-view. They operate a passive and unitary notion of 
suture which simplifies the politics and 'aesthetics' of spectator-position- 
ing by ignoring the ambivalent, psychical process of identification which 
is crucial to the argument. In contrast I suggest, in a very preliminary 
way, that the stereotype is a complex, ambivalent, contradictory mode 
of representation, as anxious as it is assertive, and demands not only 
that we extend our critical and political objectives but that we change 
the object of analysis itself. 

The difference of other cultures is other than the excess of signification 
of the trajectory of desire. These are theoretical strategies that are neces- 
sary to combat 'ethnocentricism' but they cannot, of memselves,~unre- 
constructed, represent that otherness. There can be no inevitable sliding 
from the semiotic activity to the unproblematic reading of other cultural 
and discursive systems. 5 There is in such readings a will to power and 
knowledge that, in failing to specify the limits of their own field of 
enunciation and effectivity, proceeds to individualize otherness as the 
discovery of their own assumptions. 


Jhe__difiexenc^cdLi^lQnia^ will 
emerge more fully as this chapter develops. At this stage, however, I 
shall provide what I take to be the minimum conditions and specifi- 
cations of such a discourse. It is an apparatus that turns on the recog- 
nition and disavowal of racial/cultural/historical differences. Its 
predominant strategic function is the creation of a space for a 'subject 
peoples' through the production of knowledges in terms of which sur- 
veillance is exercised and a complex form of pleasure/ unpleasure is 
incited.Jt^!^rization for its strategies by the production of 
knowledges of colonizer and colonized which are stereotypical but anti- 
thetically jiyaluated-JEhe objective of colonial discourse is to .construe 
the colonized as a po pulation of degenerate types on the basis of racial 
.origin, in order to justify conquest and to establish systems of adminis- 
tration and instruction. Despite the play of power within colonial dis- 
course and the shifting positionalities of its subjects (for example, effects 
of class, gender, ideology, different social formations, varied systems of 
colonization and so on), I am referring to_a fOTmjoi^QvernmentaUtyJthat 
irLmark jng^ out a 'subject nation', appropriates, directs and dominates, its 
various spheres of activity. Therefore, despite the play' in the colonial 
system which is crucial to its exercise of power, /colonial discourse 
produces the colonized as a social reality which is at once anjpther' 



and y et entirely knowable and visible. It resembles a form of narrative 
whereby the productivity and circulation of subjects and signs are bound 
in a reformed and recognizable totality. It employs a system of represS-lt 
tation, a regime .of truth, stmcturally.sirnilai to xealism. And it 
is in order to intervene within that system of representation that Edward 
Saidjjroposes a serrriotic of 'Orientalist' power, examining the varied 
European. discourses which constitute 'the Orient' as a unified, racial, 
geographical, political and cultural zone of the world. Said's analysis is 
revealing of, and relevant to, colonial discourse: 

Philosophically, then, the kind of language, thought, and vision 
that I have been calling orientalism very generally_is a form or 
radical realism; anyone employing orientalism, which is the habit 
for dealing with questions, objects, qualities and regions deemed 
' Oriental, will designate, name, point to, fix, what he is talking or 
| thinking about with a word or phrase, which then is considered 
! either to have acquired, or more simply to be, reality. . . . The tense 
thev employ is the timeless eternal; they convey an impression of 
repetition and strength. . . . For all .these functions it is frequently 
^enough to use the simple copula is. 7 N , 

For Said, the copula seems to be the point at which western rational- 
ism preserves the boundaries of sense for itself. Of this, too, Said is 
aware when he hints continually at a polarity or division at the very 
mili£_ofXhieniaJUsm£^ fJeaming,_dis.- 
cmer^practice; on the other,, it is-the site of dreams, images, fantasies, 
myths^ob^essions and requirements. It is a static system of 'synchronic 
essentialism', a knowledge of 'signifiers of stability' such as the lexico- 
graphic and the encyclopaedic. However, this site is continually under 
threat from diachronic forms of history and narrative, signs of instability. 
_And,_finally, this line of thinking is„given a shape analogical to the 
dreamwork^when..Sjiid.JS^ to a distinction , between 'an 

unconscious positivity' which he terms latent Orientalism, and the stated 
knowledges and views about the Orient which he calls manifest Orien- 

The originality of this pioneering theory could be extended to engage 
with the alterity and ambivalence of Orientalist discourse. Said contains 
this threat by introducing a binarism within the argument which, in 
initially setting up an opposition between these two discursive scenes, 
finally allows them to be correlated as a congruent system of represen- 
tation that is unified through a political-ideological intention which, in 
his words, enables Europe to advance securely and unmetaphorically 
upon the Orient. Said identifies the content of Orientalism as the uncon- 
scious repository of fantasy, imaginative writings and essential ideas; 
and the form of manifest Orientalism as the historically and discursively 



determined, diachronic aspect. -This, division/correlation sinirture -of 
jnanifest and latent Orientalism leads to the effectivity of the .concept 
o f disco urse being undermined by what could be called the polarities 
of intentionality. 

This produces a problem with Said's use of Foucault's concepts of 
power and discourse. The productivity of Foucault's concept of power/ 
knowledge lies in its refusal of an epistemology which opposes essence/ 
appearance, ideology/science. 'Pouvoir/Savoir' places subjects in a 
relation of power and recognition that is not part of a symmetrical or 
dialectical relation - self /other, master/slave - which can then be sub- 
verted by being inverted. Subjects are always disproportionately placed 
in opposition or domination through the symbolic decentring of multiple 
power relations which play the role of support as well as target or 
adversary. It becomes difficult, then, to conceive of the historical enunci- 
ations of colonial discourse without them being either functionally over- 
determined or strategically elaborated or displaced by the unconscious 
scene of latent Orientalism. Equally, it is difficult to conceive of the 
process of subjectification as a placing within Orientalist or colonial 
discourse for the dominated subject without the dominant being stra- 
tegically placed within it too. The terms in which Said's Orientalism is 
unified - the intentionality and unidirectionality of colonial power - 
also unify the subject of colonial enunciation. 

This results in Said's inadequate attention to representation as a con- 
cept that articulates the historical and fantasy (as the scene of desire) in 
the production of the 'political' effects of discourse. He rightly rejects a 
notion of Orientalism as the misrepresentation of an Oriental essence. 
However, having introduced the concept of 'discourse' he does not face 
up to the problems it creates for an instrumentalist notion of power/ 
knowledge that he seems to require. This problem is summed up by 
his ready acceptance of the view that, 'Representations are formations, 
or as Roland Barthes has said of all the operations of language, they 
are deformations.' 9 

This brings me to my second point. The closure and coherence 
attributed to the unconscious pole of colonial discourse and the unprob- 
lematized notion of the subject, restrict the effectivity of both power and 
knowledge. It is not possible to see how power functions productively 
as incitement and interdiction. Nor would it be possible, without the 
attribution of ambivalence to relations of power /knowledge, to calculate 
the traumatic impact of the return of the oppressed - those terrifying 
stereotypes of savagery, cannibalism, lust and anarchy which are the 
signal points of identification and alienation, scenes of fear and desire, 
in colonial texts. It is precisely this function of the stereotype as phobia 
and fetish that, according to Fanon, threatens the closure of the racial/ 



epidermal schema for the colonial subject and opens the royal road to 
colonial fantasy. 

There is an underdeveloped passage in Orientalism which, in cutting 
across the body of the text, articulates ibe , question pf .arjddesirje 
that I now want to take up. It is this: 

Altogether an internally structured archive is built up from the 
literature that belongs to these experiences. Out of this comes a 
restricted number of typical encapsulations: the journey, the his- 
tory, the fable, the stereotype, the polemical confrontation. These 
are the lenses through which the Orient is experienced, and they 
shape the language, perception, and form of the encounter between 
East and West. What gives the immense number of encounters 
some unity, however, is the vacillation I was speaking about earlier. 
Something patently foreign and distant acquires, for one reason or 
another, a status more rather than less familiar. One tends to stop 
judging things either as completely novel or as completely well- 
known; a new median category emerges, a category that allows 
one to see new things, things seen for the first time, as versions 
of a previously known thing. In essence such a category is not so 
much a way of receiving new information as it is a method of 
controlling what seems to be a threat to some established view 
of things. . . . The threat is muted, familiar values impose them- 
selves, and in the end the mind reduces the pressure upon it 
by accommodating things to itself as either 'original' or 

'repetitious' The orient at large, therefore, vacillates between 

the West's contempt for what is familiar and its shivers of delight 
in - or fear of - novelty 10 

What is this other scene of colonial discourse played out around the 
'median category'? What is this theory of encapsulation or fixation 
which moves between the recognition of cultural and racial difference 
and its disavowal, by affixing the unfamiliar to something established, 
in a form that is repetitious and vacillates between delight and fear? 
Does the Freudian fable of fetishism (and disavowal) circulate within 
the discourse of colonial power requiring the articulation of modes 
of differentiation - sexual and racial - as well as different modes of 
theoretical discourse - psychoanalytic and historical? 

Jhe. strategic articulation of 'coordinates of knowledge' - racial and 
sexu al - and their inscription in the play of colonial power as modes pf 
differentiation, , defence, fixation, hierarchization, is a way of specifying 
.colonial d iscourse which would be illuminated by reference to Fou- 
£aul£s_ ppststructuralist concept of the dispositif or apparatus. Foucault 
insists that the relation of knowledge and power within the apparatus 
are always a strategic response to an urgent need at a given historical 



moment. The force of colonial and postcqlonial^iiscourse as a theoretical 
a nd cultural intervention in our contemporarjL^ommtlrg^resents the 
urgent need to cqntest_s^^ 
^subjectslQLdifferentiation. Foucault writes: 

the apparatus is essentially of a strategic nature, which means 
assuming that it is a matter of a certain manipulation of relations 
of forces, either developing them in a particular direction, blocking 
them, stabilising them, utilising them, etc. Tl^a^garatusjsjttius 
always mscrib^d^in_a_pJay-.Qf -pQwer, but it is also, always Jinked 
to certain coordinates of knowledge which issue from it hut, to an 
^^ degg^ss^^SSSJt- This is what the apparatus consists in: 
strategies of relations of forces supporting and supported by, types 
of knowledge." 

In this spirit I argue for the reading of the stereotype in terms of 
fetishism. The myth of historical origination - racial purity, cultural 
priority - produced in relation to the colonial stereotype functions to 
'normalize' the multiple beliefs and split subjects that constitute colonial 
discourse as a consequence of its process of disavowal. The scene of 
fetishism functions similarly as, at once, a reactivation of the material 
of original fantasy - the anxiety of castration and sexual difference - as 
well as a normalization of that difference and disturbance in terms of 
the fetish object as the substitute for the mother's penis. Within the 
apparatus of colonial power, the discourses of sexuality and race relate 
ina process of functional overdetermination, 'because each effect . . . enters 
jnto resonance or contradiction with the others and thereby calls fox, a 
readjustment or a reworking of the heterogeneous elements that surface 
at various points.' 12 

There is both a structural and functional justification for reading the 
racial stereotype of colonial discourse in terms of fetishism." My reread- 
ing of Said establishes the structural link. Fetishism, as the disavowal of 
difference, is that repetitious scene around the problem of castration. 
The recognition of sexual difference - as the precondition for the circu- 
lation of the chain of absence and presence in the realm of the Symbolic 
- is disavowed by the fixation on an object that masks that difference 
and restores an original presence. The functional link between the fixation 
of the fetish and the stereotype (or the stereotype as fetish) is even more 
relevant. For fetishism is always a 'play' or vacillation between the 
archaic affirmation of wholeness/ similarity - in Freud's terms: 'AH men 
have penises'; in ours: 'All men have the same skin/race/culture' - and 
the anxiety associated with lack and difference - again, for Freud 'Some 
do not have penises'; for us 'Some do not have the same skin/ race/ 
culture.' Within discourse, the fetish represents the simultaneous play 
between metaphor as substitution (masking absence and difference) and 



metonymy (which contiguously registers the perceived lack). The fetish 
or stereotype gives access to an 'identity' which is predicated as much 
on mastery and pleasure as it is on anxiety and defence, for it is a form 
of multiple and contradictory belief in its recognition of difference and 
disavowal of it. This conflict of pleasure/ unpleasure, mastery/ defence, 
knowledge/disavowal, absence/presence, has a fundamental signifi- 
cance for colonial discourse:. For the scene of fetishism is also the scene 
of the reactivation and repetition of primal fantasy - the subject's desire 
for a pure origin that is always threatened by its division, for the subject 
.must be gendered to be engendered, to be spoken. 

The .stereoty pe , then, as the primary point of subjectification in col- 
onial discourse, for both colonizer and colonized, is the scene of a 
similar fantasy and defence -.the desire for an originality which is again 
threatened by the differences of race, colour and culture. My contention 
is splendidly caught in Fanon's title Black Skin, White Masks where the 
disavowal of difference turns the colonial subject into a misfit - a 
grotesque mimicry or 'doubling' that threatens to split the soul and 
whole, undifferentiated skin of the ego. The stereotype is not a simplifi- 
cation because it is a false representation of a given reality. It is a 
^mpUfi cation because it is an arrested, fixated form of representation 
that, in denying the play of difference (which the negation through the 
Other permits), constitutes a problem for the representation of the subject 
in significations of psychic and social relations. 

WhenJFancjnJtalks of, the positioning of the subject in the stereotyped 
discourse of colonialism, he gives further credence to my point. Jhe 
legends/ stories, histories and anecdotes of a colonial culture offer the 
subject a primordial Either/Or. 14 Either he is fixed in a consciousness of 
the body as a solely negating activity^ or as a new kind of man, a new 
j;enus. What is denied the colonial subject, both as colonizer and colon- 
ized, is that form of negation which gives access to the recognition of 
difference. It is that possibility of difference and circulation which would 
liberate the signifier of skin/culture from the fixations of racial typology, 
the analytics of blood, ideologies of racial and cultural dominance or 
degeneration. 'Wherever he goes', Fanon despairs, 'the Negro remains 
a Negro' 15 - his race becomes the ineradicable sign of negative difference 
in colonial discourses. For .the stereotype impedes the circulation and 
articulation of the signifier of 'race' as anything other than its fixity as 
racism. We always already know that blacks are licentious, Asiatics 


There are two 'primal scenes' in Fanon's Black Skins, White Masks: two 
myths of the origin of the marking of the subject within the racist 



practices and discourses of a colonial culture. On one occasion a white 
girl fixes Fanon in a look and word as she turns to identify with her 
mother. It is a scene which echoes endlessly through his essay 'The fact 
of blackness': 'Look, a Negro . . . Mama, see the Negro! I'm frightened.' 
'What else could it be for me', Fanon concludes, 'but an amputation, an 
excision, a haemorrhage that spattered my whole body with black 
blood.' 16 Equally, he stresses the primal moment when the child encoun- 
ters racial and cultural stereotypes in children's fictions, where white 
heroes and black demons are proffered as points of ideological and 
psychical identification. Such dramas are enacted every day in colonial 
societies, says Fanon, employing a theatrical metaphor - the scene - 
which emphasizes the visible - the seen. I want to play on both these 
senses which refer at once to the site of fantasy and desire and to the 
sight of subjectification and power. 

The drama underlying these dramatic 'everyday' colonial scenes is 
not difficult to discern. In each of them the subject turns around the 
pivot of the 'stereotype' to return to a point of total identification. The 
girl's gaze returns to her mother in the recognition and disavowal of 
the Negroid type; the black child turns away from himself, his race, in 
his total identification with the positivity of whiteness which is at once 
colour and no colour. In the act of disavowal and fixation the colonial 
subject is returned to the narcissism of the Imaginary and its identifi- 
cation of an ideal ego that is white and whole. For what these primal 
scenes illustrate is that looking/hearing/reading as sites of subject- 
ification in colonial discourse are evidence of the importance of the 
visual and auditory imaginary for the histories of societies. 17 

It is in this context that I want to allude briefly to the problematic of 
seeing/being seen. I suggest that in order to conceive of the colonial 
subject as the effect of power that is productive - disciplinary and 
'pleasurable' - one has to see the surveillance of colonial power as 
functioning in relation to the regime of the scopic drive. That is, the drive 
that represents the pleasure in 'seeing', which has the look as its object 
of desire, is related both to the myth of origins, the primal scene, and 
to the problematic of fetishism and locates the surveyed object within 
the 'imaginary' relation. Like voyeurism, surveillance must depend for 
its effectivity on 'the active consent which is its real or mythical correlate 
(but always real as myth) and establishes in the scopic space the illusion 
of the object relation' (my emphasis). 18 The ambivalence of this form of 
'consent' in objectification - real as mythical - is the ambivalence on 
which the stereotype rums and illustrates that crucial bind of pleasure 
and power that Foucault asserts but, in my view, fails to explain. 

My anatomy of colonial discourse remains incomplete until I locate 
the stereotype, as an arrested, f etishistic mode of representation within 
its field of identification, which I have identified in my description of 



Fanon's primal scenes, as the Lacanian schema of the Imaginary. The 
Imaginary 19 is the transformation that takes place in the subject at the 
formative mirror phase, when it assumes a discrete image which allows 
it to postulate a series of equivalences, samenesses, identities, between 
the objects of the surrounding world. However, this positioning is itself 
problematic, for the subject finds or recognizes itself through an image 
which is simultaneously alienating and hence potentially confron- 
tational. This is the basis of the close relation between the two forms of 
identification complicit with the Imaginary - narcissism and aggressiv- 
ity. It is precisely these two forms of identification that constitute the 
dominant strategy of colonial power exercised in relation to the stereo- 
type which, as a form of multiple and contradictory belief, gives knowl- 
edge of difference and simultaneously disavows or masks it. Like the 
mirror phase 'the fullness' of the stereotype - its image as identity - is 
always threatened by 'lack'. 

The construction of colonial discourse is then a complex articulation 
of the tropes of fetishism - metaphor and metonymy - and the forms of 
narcissistic and aggressive identification available to the Imaginary. 
Stereotypical racial discourse is a four-term strategy. There is a tie- 
up between the metaphoric or masking function of the fetish and the 
narcissistic object-choice and an opposing alliance between the metony- 
mic figuring of lack and the aggressive phase of the Imaginary. A 
repertoire of conflictual positions constitutes the subject in colonial dis- 
course. The taking up of any one position, within a specific discursive 
form, in a particular historical conjuncture, is thus always problematic 
- the site of both fixity and fantasy. It provides a colonial 'identity' that 
is played out - like all fantasies of originality and origination - in the 
face and space of the disruption and threat from the heterogeneity of 
other positions. As_aform of splitting and multiple belief, the stereotype 
requires, for its successful signification, a continual and repetitive chain 
of other stereotypes. The process by which the metaphoric 'masking' is 
inscribed on a lack which must then be concealed gives the stereotype 
both, its fixity and its phantasmatic quality - the same old stories of the 
Negro's animality, the Coolie's inscrutability or the stupidity of the Irish 
must be told (compulsively) again and afresh, and are differently gratify- 
ing and terrifying each time. 

In any specific colonial discourse the metaphoric/narcissistic and the 
metonymic/aggressive positions will function simultaneously, strategi- 
cally poised in relation to each other; similar to the moment of alienation 
which stands as a threat to Imaginary plenitude, and 'multiple belief 
which threatens fetishistic disavowal. The subjects of the discourse are 
constructed within an apparatus of po\ver~whicfi contains, in "Both senses" 
of the word, an 'other ' knowledge - a knowledge that is arreste d and 
fetishistic and circulates through colonial discburse as that limited form 



of otherness that I hayg_called the stereotype. Fanon poignantly 
describes the effects of this process for a colonized culture: 

a continued agony rather than a total disappearance of the pre- 
existing culture. The culture once living and open to the future, 
becomes closed, fixed in the colonial status, caught in the yolk of 
oppression. Both present and mummified, it testifies against its 
members. . . . The cultural mummification leads to a mummifi- 
cation of individual thinking. ... As though it were possible for a 
man to evolve otherwise than within the framework of a culture 
that recognises him and that he decides to assume. 20 

My four-term strategy of the stereotype tries tentatively to provide a 
structure and a process for the 'subject' of a colonial discourse. I now 
want to take up the problem of discrimination as the political effect of 
such a discourse and relate it to the question of 'race' and 'skin'. To 
that end it is important to remember that the multiple belief that 
accompanies fetishism not only has disavowal value; it also has 'knowl- 
edge value' and it is this that I shall now pursue. In calculating this 
knowledge value it is crucial to consider what Fanon means when he 
says that: 

There is a quest for the Negro, the Negro is a demand, one cannot 
get along without him, he is needed, but only if he is made 
palatable in a certain way. Unfortunately the Negro knocks down 
the system and breaks the treaties. 21 

To understand this demand and how the native or Negro is made 
'palatable' we must acknowledge some significant differences between 
the general theory of fetishism and its specific uses for an understanding 
of racist discourse. First, the fetish of colonial discourse - what Fanon 
calls the epidermal schema - is not, like the sexual fetish, a secret. Skin, 
as the key signifier of cultural and racial difference in the stereotype, is 
the most visible of fetishes, recognized as 'common knowledge' in a 
range of cultural, political and historical discourses, and plays a public 
part in the racial drama that is enacted every day in colonial societies. 
Second, it may be said that sexual fetish is closely linked to the 'good 
object'; it is the prop that makes the whole object desirable and lovable, 
facilitates sexual relations and can even promote a form of happiness. 
The stereotype can also be seen as that particular 'fixated' form of the 
colonial subject which facilitates colonial relations, and sets up a discur- 
sive form of racial and cultural opposition in terms of which colonial 
power is exercised. If it is claimed that the colonized are most often 
objects of hate, then we can reply with Freud that 

affection and hostility in the treatment of the fetish - which run 



parallel with the disavowal and acknowledgement of castration - 
are mixed in unequal proportions in different cases, so that the 
one or the other is more clearly recognisable. 22 

What this statement recognizes is the wide range of the stereotype, from 
the loyal servant to Satan, from the loved to the hated; a shifting of 
subject positions in the circulation of colonial power which I tried to 
account for through the motility of the metaphoric/narcissistic and 
metonymic/aggressive system of colonial discourse. What remains to 
be examined, however, is the construction of the signifier .of 'skin/ 
rac?"m those regimes of visibility and discursiyity - fetishistic, scopic, 
Imaginary - within which I have located the stereotypes. It is only on 
thaT^basfe that we can construct its 'knowledge-value', which will, I 
hope, enable us to see the place„of fantasy in the exercise, of colonial 

My argument relies upon a particular reading of the problematic of 
representation which, Fanon suggests, is specific to the colonial situation. 
He writes: 

the originality of the colonial context is that the economic substruc- \ 
ture is also a superstructure . . . you are rich because you are white, i 
you are white because you are rich. This is why Marxist analysis f 
should always be slightly stretched every time we have to do with \ 
the colonial problem. 23 1 

Fanon could either be seen to be adhering to a simple reflectionist or 
determinist notion of cultural/ social signification or, more interestingly, 
he could be read as taking an 'anti-repressionist' position (attacking 
the notion that ideology as miscognition, or misrepresentation, is the 
repression of the real). For our pur oses I tend towards the latter reading 
which then provides a 'visibility' to the exercise of power; gives force 
to the argument that skin, as a signifier of disaimination, must be 
produced or processed as visible. As Paul Abbot says, in a very different 

whereas repression banishes its object into the unconscious, forgets 
and attempts to forget the forgetting, discrimination must con- 
stantly invite its representations into consciousness, reinforcing the 
crucial recognition of difference which they embody and revitalis- 
ing them for the perception on which its effectivity depends It 

must sustain itself on the presence of the very difference which is 
also its object. 24 

What 'authorizes' discrimination, Abbot continues, is the occlusion 
of..the preconstruction or working-up of difference: 'this repression of 
production entails that the recognition of difference is procured in an 



innocmce, as a "nature"; recognition is contrived as primary cognition, 
spontaneous effect.of ihe "evidence of the visible"? 25 

This is precisely the kind of recogni tion, as spontaneous and visible, 
that is attributed to the stereotype. The difference of toe o^ 
criiriirtaiBEI^ - colour as the cultural/ 

political sign of inferiority or degeneracy, skin as its natural 'identity'. 
However, Abbot's account stops at the point of 'identification' and 
strangely colludes with the success of discriminatory practices by sug- 
gesting that their representations require the repression of the working- 
up of difference; to argue otherwise, according to him, would be to 
put the subject in 'an impossible awareness, since it would run into 
consciousness the heterogeneity of the subject as a place of articu- 
lation.' 26 

Despite his awareness of the crucial recognition of difference for 
discrimination and its problematization of repression. Abbot is trapped 
in his unitary place of articulation. He comes close to suggesting that it 
is possible, however momentarily and illusorily, for the perpetrator of 
the discriminatory discourse to be in a position that is unmarked by the 
discourse to the extent to which the object of discrimination is deemed 
natural and visible. What Abbot neglects is the facilitating role of contra- 
diction and heterogeneity in the construction of authoritarian practices 
and their strategic, discursive fixations. 

>4y concept of stereotype-as-suture is a recog nition of. the am bivalence 
of that authority and those orders of identification. The role of fetishistic 
identification, in the construction of discriminatory knowledges that 
depend on the 'presence of difference', is to provide a process of splitting 
and multiple/contradictory belief at the point of enunciation and sub- 
jectification. It is this crucial splitting of the ego which is represented in 
Fanon's description of the construction of the colonized subject as effect 
of stereotypical discourse: the subject primordially fixed and yet triply 
split between the incongruent knowledges of body ^race j ^_ancesjx3rs. 
Assailed by the stereotype, 'the corporeal schema crumbled, its place 
taken by a racial epidermal schema. ... It was no longer a question of 
being aware of my body in the third person but in a triple person. . . . 
I was not given one, but two, three places.' 27 

This process is best understood in terms of the articulation of multiple 
belief that Freud proposes in his essay on fetishism. It is a non -repressive 
form of knowledge that allows for the possibili ty of sirnuTtaneousi y 
embracing two contradictory beliefs, one official and one secret, one 
archaic and one progressive, one that allows the myth of origins, the 
dther that articulates difference and division. Its knowledge" 'value' lies 
in its orientation as a defence towards external reality, and provides, in 
Metz's words, 



the lasting matrix, the effective prototype of all those splittings of 
belief which man will henceforth be capable of in the most varied 
domains, of all the infinitely complex unconscious and occasionally 
conscious interactions which he will allow himself between believ- 
ing and not-believing. 28 

It is through this notion of splitting and multiple belief that, I believe, 
it becomes easier to see the bind of knowledge and fantasy, power and 
pleasure, that informs the particular regime of visibility deployed in 
colonial discourse. The visibility of the racial /colonial Other is at once 
a_poi nt of ident ity ('Look, a Negro') and at the same time a problem for 
the attempted closure within discourse. For the recognition of difference 
as. 'imaginary' points of identity and origin - such as black and white 
- isjiisjur^ of splitting in the discourse. What 

I called the play between the metaphoric/narcissistic and metonymic/ 
aggressive moments in colonial discourse - that four-part strategy of the 
stereotype - crucially recognizes the prefiguring of desire as a potentially 
conflictual, disturbing force in all those regimes of 'originality' that I 
have brought together. In the objectification of the scopic drive there is 
alwaysj^e^lhreatened return of the look; in^ th^identinration jQf^the 
hiiajgnajrj^ (or mirror) which 

crucially returns its im a^LtP^the-^ubject; and in that form of substitution 
an d fbcatio n-thaijs^e&shisrft the^^ trace o f loss, absence ^ 

To put it succinctly, the recognition and disavowal of 'difference' is 
always disturbed by the question of its re-presentation or construction. 

Th? sjereptype is in that sense an 'impossible' object. For that very 
reason, the exertions of the 'official knowledges' of colonialism - 
pseudo-scientific, typological, legal-administrative, eugenicist - are 
imbricated at the point of their production of meaning and power with 
the fantasy that dramatizes the impossible desire for a pure, undifferen- 
tiated origin. N ot itself the obj ectof desire but its setting, not an ascrip- 
tion of j>rior identities but their production in thelsyntaxof the scenario 
of racist discourse, colonial fantasy plays a crucial part in those everyday 
scen^s_cjLAur4ejctification in a colonial society which Fan or^refers to 
repeatedly. Like fanta sies of the ori gins of sexuality, the produc tions^ 
'colonial desire' markjhe discourse as 'a favoured sp^t Jor_tiT.e jnost 
prjmitiyjrdefensive reactions such as turning against oneself, into an 
opposite, projection, negation'. 29 

The problem of origin as the problematic of racist, stereotypical 
knowledge is a complex one and what I have said about its construction 
will come clear in this illustration from Fanon. Stereoty ping is not the 
sejtingjrpjrfa fals e image which become^Jthejca pegoat of discriminat- 
ory practices. It is^jTmuch more ambivalent text of projection and 
infrojection, metaphoric and metonymic strategies, displacement, over- 



determination, guilt, aggressivity; the masking and splitting of 'official' 
and phantasmatic knowledges to construct the positionalities and oppo- 
sitionalities of racist discourse: 

My body was given back to me sprawled out, distorted, recol- 
oured, clad in mourning in that white winter day. The Negro is 
an animal, the Negro is bad, the Negro is mean, the Negro is ugly; 
look, a nigger, it's cold, the nigger is shivering, the nigger is 
shivering because he is cold, the little boy is trembling because he 
is afraid of the nigger, the nigger is shivering with cold, that cold 
that goes through your bones, the handsome little boy is trembling 
because he thinks that the nigger is quivering with rage, the little 
white boy throws himself into his mother's arms: Mama, the nig- 
ger's going to eat me up. 30 

It is the scenario of colonial fantasy which, in staging the ambivalence 
of desire, articulates the demand for the Negro which the Negro dis- 
rupts. For the stereotype is at once a substitute and a shadow. By 
acceding to the wildest fantasies (in the popular sense) of the colonizer, 
the stereotyped Other reveals something of the 'fantasy' (as desire, 
defence) of that position of mastery. For if 'skin' in racist discourse is 
the visibility of darkness, and a prime signifier of the body and its 
social and cultural correlates, then we are bound to remember what 
Karl Abrahams says in his seminal work on the scopic drive. 31 The 
pleasure-value of darkness is a withdrawal in order to know nothing 
of the external world. Its symbolic meaning, however, is thoroughly 
ambivalent. Darkness signifies at once both birth and death; it is in all 
cases a desire to return to the fullness of the mother, a desire for an 
unbroken and undifferentiated line of vision and origin. 

But surely there is another scene of colonial discourse in which the 
native or Negro meets the demand of colonial discourse; where the sub- 
verting 'split' is recuperable within a strategy of social and political 
control. It is recognizably true that the chain of stereotypical signification 
is curiously mixed and split, polymorphous and perverse, an articulation 
of multiple belief. The black is both savage (cannibal) and yet the 
most obedient and dignified of servants (the bearer of food); he is the 
embodiment of rampant sexuality and yet innocent as a child; he is 
mystical, primitive, simple-minded and yet the most worldly and 
accomplished liar, and manipulator of social forces. Ineach case what 
is being dramatized is a separation - between races, cultures, histories, 
within histories - a separation between before and after that repeats 
obsessively the mythical moment or disjunction. 

Despite the structural similarities with the play of need and desire in 
primal fantasies, the colonial fantasy does not try to cover up that 
moment of separation. It is more ambivalent. On the one hand, it pro- 



poses a teleology - under certain conditions of colonial domination and 
control the native is progressively reformable. On the other, however, it 
effectively displays the 'separation', makes it more visible. It is the 
visibility of this separation which, in denying the colonized the capacit- 
ies of self-government, independence, Western modes of civility, lends 
authority to the official version and mission of colonial power. 

Racist stereotypical discourse, in its colonial moment, inscribes a form 
of govemmentality that is informed by a productive splitting in its 
constitution of knowledge and exercise of power. Some of its practices 
recognize the difference of race, culture and history as elaborated by 
stereotypical knowledges, racial theories, administrative colonial experi- 
ence, and on that basis institutionalize a range of political and cultural 
ideologies that are prejudicial, discriminatory, vestigial, archaic, 'mythi- 
cal', and, crucially, are recognized as being so. By 'knowing' the native 
population in these terms, discriminatory and authoritarian forms of 
political control are considered appropriate. The colonized population 
is then deemed to be both the cause and effect of the system, imprisoned 
in the circle of interpretation. What is visible is the necessity of such 
rule which is justified by those moralistic and normative ideologies of 
amelioration recognized as the Civilizing Mission or the White Man's 
Burden. However, there coexist within the same apparatus of colonial 
rxjjs&er, modem systems and sciences of government, progressive 'West- 
em' forms of social and economic organization which "provide the mani- 
fest justification for the project of colonialism - an argument which, in 
part, impressed Karl Marx. It is on the site of this coexistence that 
strategies of hierarchization and marginaliza tion are employed in the 
management of .colonial societies. And if my deduction from Fanon 
about the peculiar visibility of colonial power is justified, then I would 
extend that to say that it is a form of govemmentality in which the 
'ideological' space functions in more openly collaborative ways with 
political and economic exigencies. The barracks stands by the church 
which stands by the schoolroom; the cantonment stands hard by the 
'civil lines'. Such visibil ity jaf-the institutions and apparatuses of power 
ispossible because the exercise of colonial power makes their relationship 
o bsaireTprod uceTffiem /racial pre- 

eminence. Only the seat of government is always elsewhere "alien 
and separate by that distance upon" which surveillance depends for its 
strategies of objectification, normalization and discipline. 

The last word belongs to Fanon: 

this behaviour [of the colonizer] betrays a determination to objec- 
tify, to confine, to imprison, to harden. Phrases such as 'I know 
them', 'that's the way they are', show this maximum objectification 
successfully achieved. . . . There is on the one hand a culture in 



which qualities of dynamism, of growth, of depth can be recog- 
nised. As against this, [in colonial cultures] we find characteristics, 
curiosities, things, never a structure. 32 



The ambivalence of colonial discourse 

Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what might be 

called an itself that is behind. The effect of mimicry is camouflage It is 

not a question of harmonizing with the background, but against a mottled 
background, of becoming mottled - exactly like the technique of camou- 
flage practised in human warfare. 

Jacques Lacan, The line and light'. Of the Gaze. 1 

It is out of season to question at this time of day, the original policy of a 
conferring on every colony of the British Empire a mimic representation 
of the British Constitution. But if the creature so endowed has sometimes 
forgotten its real significance and under the fancied importance of speakers 
and maces, and all the paraphernalia and ceremonies of the imperial legis- 
lature, has dared to defy the mother country, she has to thank herself for 
the folly of conferring such privileges on a condition of society that has no 
earthly claim to so exalted a position. A fundamental principle appears to 
have been forgotten or overlooked in our system of colonial policy - that 
of colonial dependence.fjo give to a colony the forms of independence is 
a mockery; she would not be a colony for a single hour if she could 
maintain an independent station?} 

Sir Edward Cust, 'Reflections on West African affairs . . . 
addressed to the Colonial Office', Hatchard, London 1839 

The discourse of post-Enlightenment Jkpglish colonialism often speaks 
in a tongue that is forked, not false, jg f colonialism ta kes power in the 
name of history, it repeatedly exercises its authority through the figures 
of faiceTJ jPor the epic mtentioh of the civilizing mission, 'human and not 
wholly numan' in the famous words of Lord Rosebery, 'writ by the 
finger of the Divine' 2 often produces a text rich in the traditions of 
trompe-l'ceil, irony, mimicry and repetition. In this comic rum from the 
high ideals of the colonial imagination to its low mimetic literary effects 
mimicry emerges as one of the most elusive and effective strategies of 
colonial power and knowledge. 
Within that conflictual economy of colonial discourse which Edward 



Said 3 describes as the tension between the synchronic panoptical vision 
of domination - the demand for identity, stasis - and the counter- 
pressure of^^-diaehroriy of history - change, difference - mimicry 
represents(|r^ ironic compromise. If I may adapt Samuel Weber's formu- 
lation of the marginalizing vision of castration, 4 then^olonial jiunucry 
is the desire for a ref rmed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference 
that is almost fa % scw,tot j^ji^.JNlM<h is to say, that the discourse 
of mimicry is constructed around an.ambivalence; in c^er to be effective, 
ggjmicry must continually produce its slippage, its exc ess, its diff erence. 
The authority of that mode of colonial discourse that I have called 
mimicry is therefore stricken by an indeterminacy: mimicry emerges as 
[the representation of a difference that is itself a process pfjiisayjQwaJ. 
Mimicry .i s, thus the si gn of a doub l e articu lation;, a complex strategy 
of reform, regulation and discipline, which 'appropriates' the Other as 
it visualizes power. Mimicry • is also the sign of the jrwppropriate, how- 
ever, a. difference or recalcitrance which coheres the dominant strategic 
function of colonial power, intensifies surveillance, and poses an imma- 
nent threat to both 'normalized' knowledges and disciplinary powers. 

The effect of mimicry on the authority of colonial discourse is pro- 
found and disturbing. For in 'normalizing' the colonial state or subject, 
the dream of post-Enlightenment civility alienates its own language of 
liberty and produces another knowledge of its norms. The ambivalence 
which thus informs this strategy is discernible, for example, in Locke's 
Second Treatise which splits to reveal the limitations of liberty in his 
double use of the word 'slave': first simply, descriptively as the locus 
of a legitimate form of ownership, then as the trope for an intolerable, 
illegitimate exercise of power. What is articulated in that distance 
between the two uses is the absolute, imagined difference between the 
'Colonial' State of Carolina and the Original State of Nature. 

It is from this area between mimicry and mockery, where the reform- 
ing, civilizing mission is hreatened by the displacing gaze of its disci- 
plinary double, that my instances of colonial imitation come. What they 
all share is a discursive process Jb^^ 

duced by the ambivalence of mimicryMalmost the same, but not quite) 
does not mtfeTy**ru|?^^ 

arrunceTtairrty-TVruch fixes the colonial subject as a 'partST^preseneer 


emergence of the 'colonial' is dependent for its representation upon 
Shim* »rtragf^|i|nitafirm nr pw^Kfijon rmtjftit the authoritative ijis; 
course itself. The success of colonial appropriation depends on a prolifer- 
ation of inappropriate objects that ensure its strategic failure, so that 
mimicry is at once resemblance and menace. 

A classic text of such partiality is Charles Grant's 'Observations on 
the state of society among the Asiatic subjects of Great Britain' (1792) 5 



which viras only superseded by James Mills's History of India as the 
most influential early nineteenth-century account of Indian manners and 
morals. Grant's dream of an evangelical system of mission education 
conducted uncompromisingly in the English language, was partly a 
belief in political reform along Christian lines and partly an awareness 
that the expansion of company rule in India required a system of subject 
formation - a reform of manners, as Grant put it - that would provide 
the colonial with 'a sense of personal identity as we know it'. Caught 
between the desire for religious reform and the fear that the Indians 
might become turbulent for liberty, Grant paradoxically implies that it 
is the 'partial' diffusion of Christianity, and the 'partial' influence of 
moral improvements which will construct a particularly appropriate 
form of colonial subjectivity. What is suggested is a process of reform 
through which Christian doctrines might collude with divisive caste 
practices to prevent dangerous political alliances. Inadvertently, Grant 
produces a knowledge of Christianity as a form of social control which 
conflicts with the enunciatory assumptions that authorize his discourse. 
In suggesting, finally, that 'partial reform' will produce an empty form 
of 'the imitation [my emphasis] of English manners which will induce 
them [the colonial subjects] to remain under our protection'. 6 Grant 
mocks His moral project and violates the Evidence of Christianity - a 
central missionary tenet - which forbade any tolerance of heathen faiths. 

The absurd extravagance of Macaulay's 'Minute' (1835) - deeply 
influenced by Charles Grant's 'Observations' - makes a mockery of 
Oriental learning until faced with the challenge of conceiving of a 'refor- 
med' colonial subject. Then, the great tradition of European humanism 
seems capable only of ironizing itself. At the intersection of European 
learning and colonial power, Macaulay can conceive of nothing other 
than 'a jjass of interpreters between us and the millions whom we 
governor a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in 
tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect' 7 - in other words a mimic 
man raised 'throueh_j^^ as a missionary educationist" 

wrote in 1819, 'to form a corps of translators and be employed in 
different departments of Labour'. 8 The line of descent of the mimic man 
can be traced through the works of Kipling, Forster, Orwell, Naipaul, 
and to his emergence, most recently, in Benedict Anderson's excellent 
work on nationalism, as the anomalous Bipin Chandra Pal. 9 He is the 
effect of a flawed colonial mimesis, in which to be Anglicized is emphati- 
cally not to be English. 

The figure of mimicry is locatable within what Anderson describes as 
'the inner compatibility of empire and nation'. 10 It problematizes the 
signs of racial and cultural priority, so that the 'national' is no longer 
naturalizable. What emerges between mimesis and mimicry is^syg^SSSS*. 
a mode of representation, that marginalizes the monumentally of 



history, quite simply mocks its power Jojjeji model, that power which 
suppcSetriy~makes fnm^Eab*ler^^^^^^^§*ra^^r than re-presents 
and in that diminishing perspective emerges Decoud's displaced Euro- 
pean vision of Sulaco in Conrad's Nostromo as: 

the endlessness of civil strife where folly seemed even harder to 
bear than its ignominy . . . the lawlessness of a populace of all 
colours and races, barbarism, irremediable tyranny . . . America is 

Or Ralph Singh's apostasy in Naipaul's 77k Mimic Men: 

We pretended to be real, to be learning, to be preparing ourselves 
for life, we mimic men of the New World, one unknown comer of 
it, with all its reminders of the corruption that came so quickly to 
the new. 12 

Both Decoud and Singh, and in their different ways Grant and Macaulay, 
are the parodists of history. Despite their intentions and invocations 
they inscribe the colonial text erratically, eccentrically across a body 
politic that refuses to be representative, in a narrative that refuses to be 
representational. The desire to emerge as 'authentic' through mimicry - 
through a process or writing ana repention - is the final irony of partial 

What I have called mimicry is not the familiar exercise of dependent 
colonial relations through narcissistic identification so that, as Fanon has 
observed, 13 the black man stops being an actional person for jordy_£he_ 
white man can represent his setF&tie&m. Mirni^ c^ceali nQ presence 
or identity behind its mask: it is not what Cesaire describes as colon- 
Sa^on-thingificafion' 14 behind which there stands the essence of the 
presence Africaine. The jnenace of jnimicry is its double vision which in 
disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its author- 
ity. And it is a double vision that is a result of what" I've described" 
as the partial representation/recognition of the colonial object. Grant's 
colonial as partial imitator, Macaulay's translator, Naipaul's colonial 
politician as play-actor, Decoud as the scene setter of the opera bouffe of 
the New World, these are the appropriate objects of a colonialist chain 
of command, authorized versions of otherness. But they are also, as I 
have shown, the figures of a doubling, the part-objects of a metonymy 
of colonial desire which alienates the modality and normality of those 
dominant discourses in which they emerge as 'inappropriate' colonial 
subjects? A "desire that, through the repetition of partial presence, which 
is the basis of mimicry, articulates those disturbances of cultural, racial 
and historical difference that menace the narcissistic demand of colonial 
authority. It is a desire that reverses 'in part' the colonial appropriation 
by now producing a partial vision of the colonizer's presence; a gaze 



of otherness, that shares the acuity of the genealogical gaze which, as 
Foucault describes it, liberates marginal elements and shatters the unity 
of man's being through which he extends his sovereignty. 15 

I want to rum to this process by which the look of surveillance returns 
as the displacing gaze of the disciplined, where the observer becomes 
the observed and 'partial' representation particulates the whole notion 
of identity and alienates it from essence. But not before observing that 
even an exemplary history like Eric Stokes's 77k English Utilitarians and 
India acknowledges the anomalous gaze of otherness but finally dis- 
avows it in a contradictory utterance: 

Certainly India played no central part in fashioning the distinctive 
qualities of English civilisation. In many ways it acted as a disturb- 
ing force, a magnetic power placed at the periphery tending to 
distort the natural development of Britain's character. 16 (My 

What is the nature of the hidden threat of the partial gaze? How does 
mimicry emerge as the subject of the scopic drive and the object of 
colonial surveillance? How is desire disciplined, authority displaced? 

If we rum to a Freudian figure to address these issues of colonial 
textuality, that form of difference that is mimicry - almost the same but 
not quite - will become clear. Writing of the partial nature of fantasy, 
caught inappropriately, between the unconscious and the preconscious, 
making problematic, like mimicry, the very notion of 'origins', Freud 
has this to say: 

Their mixed and split origin is what decides their fate. We may 
compare them with individuals of mixed race who taken all round 
resemble white men but who betray their coloured descent by 
some striking feature or other and on that account are excluded 
from society and enjoy none of the privileges. 17 

Almost th e same but not white: the visibility of mimicry is always pro- 
duced at the site of mterdlction. It is a form of colonial discourse that 
is uttered inter dicta: a discourse at the crossroads of what is known and 
permissible and that which though known must be kept concealed; a 
discourse uttered between the lines and as such both against the rules 
and within them. The question of fh» representation of di fference is 
therefore always also a problem of authority. The 'desire' of mimicry, 
which is ' mud's 'Striking fearure'maf reveals so little but makes such 
a big difference, is not merely that impossibility of the Other which 
repeatedly resists signification. The desire of colonial mimicry - an 
interdictory desire - may not have an object, but it has strategic objec- 
tives which I shall call the metonymy of presence. 
Those inappropriate signifiers of colonial discourse - the difference 



between being English and beings Anghaged; the identity between 
stereotypes wHcR,~ffirouj^ repetition, also become different; the dis- 
criminatory identities constructed across traditional cultural norms and 
classifications, the Simian Black, the Lying Asiatic - all these are meton- 
ymies of presence. They are strategies of desire in discourse that make 
the anomalous representation of the colonized something other than a 
process of 'the return of the repressed', what Fanon unsatisfactorily 
characterized as collective catharsis. 18 These instances of metonymy are 
the non-repressive productions of contradictory and multiple belief. 
They cross the boundaries of the culture of enunciation through a stra- 
tegic confusion of the metaphoric and metonymic axes of the cultural 
production of meaning. 

In mimicry, the representation of identity and meaning is rearticulated 
along the axis of metonymy. As Lacan reminds us, mimicry is like 
camouflage, not a harmonization of repression of difference, but a form 
of "resemblance, That differs from or defends presence by displaying if 
in part, metonymically. Its threat, I would add, comes from the pro- 
digious and strategic production of conflictual, fantastic, discriminatory 
'identity effects' in the play of a power that is elusive becausejt hides 
no essence/ no 'itself '. And that form of resemblance is the most terrifying 
thing to behold, as Edward Long testifies in his History of Jamaica (1774). 
At the end of a tortured, negrophobic passage, that shifts anxiously 
between piety, prevarication and perversion, the text finally confronts 
its fear; nothing other than the repetition of its resemblance 'in part': 
'[Negroes] are represented by all authors as the vilest of human kind, 
to which they have little more pretension of resemblance than what arises 
from their exterior forms' (my emphasis). 19 

From such a colonial encounter between the white presence and its 
black semblance, there emerges the question of the ambivalence of 
mimicry as a problematic of colonial subjection. For if Sade's scandalous 
theatricalization of language repeatedly reminds us that discourse can 
claim 'no priority', then the work of Edward Said will not let us forget 
that the 'ethnocentric and erratic will to power from which texts can 
spring' 20 is itself a theatre of war. Mimicry, as the metonymy of presence 
is, indeed, such an erratic, eccentric strate y of authority in colonial 
discourse. Mimicry does not merely destroy narcissistic authority 
through "the repetitious slippage of difference and desire. It is the process 
ofthe;/rx<rtror! of the colonial as a form of cross-da ssificatory, discriminat- 
brj^lcnbwTedge within an interdictory discourse, and therefore neces- 
sarily raises the question of the authorization of colonial representations; 
a question of authority that goes beyond the subject's lack of priority 
(castration) to a historical crisis in the conceptually of colonial man as 
an object of regulatory power, as the subject of racial, cultural, national 



This culture . . . fixed in its colonial status', Fanon suggests, '[is] both 
present and mummified, it testified against its members. It defines them 
in fact without appeal.' 21 The ambivalence of mimicry - almost but not 
quite - suggests that the fetishized colonial culture is potentially and 
strategically an insurgent counter-appeal. What I have called its 'ident- 
ity-effects' are always crucially split. Under cover of camouflage, mim- 
icry, like the fetish, is a part-object that radically revalues the normative 
knowledges of the priority of race, writing, history. For the fetish mimes 
the forms of authority at the point at which it deauthorizes them. 
Similarly, mimicry rearticulates presence in terms of its 'otherness', that 
which it disavows. There is a crucial difference between this colonial 
articulation of man and his doubles and that which Foucault describes 
as 'thinking the unthought' 22 which, for nineteenth-century Europe, is 
the ending of man's alienation by reconciling him with his essence. The 
colonial discourse that articulates an interdictory otherness is precisely 
the 'other scene' of this nineteenth-century European desire for an auth- 
entic historical consciousness. 

The 'unthought' across which colonial man is articulated is that pro- 
cess of classificatory confusion that I have described as the metonymy 
of the substitutive chain of ethical and cultural discourse. This results 
in the splitting of colonial discourse so that two attitudes towards exter- 
nal reality persist; one takes reality into consideration while the other 
disavows it and replaces it by a product of desire that repeats, rearticu- 
lates 'reality' as mimicry. 

So Edward Long can say with authority, quoting variously Hume, 
Eastwick and Bishop Warburton in his support, that: 'Ludicrous as the 
opinion may seem I do not think that an orangutang husband would 
be any dishonour to a Hottentot female.' 23 

S^ckxcsirxadictory^ articulations o£ reality andjiesire - seen in racist 
stereotypes, statements, jokes, myths - are not caught in the doubtful 
circle of the return of the repressed They are Jthe effecte^ofa disavowal 
that denies the differences of the other but produces in its stead forms 
oT authority and multiple belief that alienate the assumptions of 'civil' 
^ScQur^Tlf, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses 
of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific 
theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be 
seen as the desperate effort to 'normalize' formally the disturbance of a 
discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its 
enunciatory modality. The ambivalence of colonial authority repeatedly 
turns from mimicry - a difference that is almost nothing but not quite - 
to menace - a difference that is almost total but not quite. And in that 
other scene of colonial power, where history turns to farce and presence 
to 'a part' can be seen the twin figures of narcissism and paranoia that 
repeat furiously, uncontrollably. 



In the ambivalent world of the 'not quite /not white', on the margins 
of metropolitan desire, the founding objects of the Western world become 
the erratic, eccentric, accidental objets trouves of the colonial discourse 
- the part-objects of presence. It is then that the body and the book lose 
their part-objects of presence. It is then that the body and the book 
lose their representational authority. Black skin splits under the racist 
gaze, displaced into jsigjnsof JbestiHH^geW^a^Z^^^l^^^^ilJ^ 
reveallne phobic myth ofThe undifferentiated whole white body. And 
the noiieslt'dt'ljiaila^Sw Bible - bearmg~B6tfTthe standard of the cross 
and the standard of empire finds itself strangely dismembered. In May 
1817 a missionary wrote from Bengal: 

Still everyone would gladly receive a Bible. And why? - that he 
may lay it up as a curiosity for a few pice; or use it for waste 
paper. Such it is well known has been the common fate of these 

copies of the Bible Some have been bartered in the markets, 

others have been thrown in snuff shops and used as wrapping 




They [the paranoid], too, cannot regard anything in other people as indiffer- 
ent, and they, too, take up minute indications with which these other, 
unknown, people present them, and use them in their 'delusions of refer- 
ence'. The meaning of their delusions of reference is that they expect from 
all strangers something like love. But these people show them nothing of 
the kind; they laugh to themselves, flourish their sticks, even spit on the 
ground as they go by - and one really does not do such things while a 
person in whom one takes a friendly interest is near. One does them only 
when one feels quite indifferent to the passer-by, when one can treat him 
like air; and, considering, too, the fundamental kinship of the concepts of 
'stranger' and 'enemy', the paranoic is not so far wrong in regarding this 
indifference as hate, in contrast to his claim for love. 

Freud, 'Some neurotic mechanisms in jealousy, 
paranoia and homosexuality' 1 

If the spirit of the Western nation has been symbolized in epic and 
anthem, voiced by a 'unanimous people assembled in the self-presence 
of its speech', 2 then the sign of colonial government is cast in a lower 
key, caught in the irredeemable act of writing. Who better to bear witness 
to this hypothesis than that representative figure of the mid-nineteenth 
century, J. S. Mill, who divided his life between addressing the colonial 
sphere as an examiner of correspondence for the East India Company, 
and preaching the principles of postutilitarian liberalism to the English 

'The whole government of India is carried out in writing/ Mill test- 
ified to a Select Committee of the House of Lords in 1852. 

All the orders given and all the acts of executive officers are 
reported in writing. . . . [There] is no single act done in India, the 
whole of the reasons for which are not placed on record. This 
appears to me a greater security for good government than exists 
in almost any other government in the world, because no other 
has a system of recordation so complete. 3 



Mill's dream of a perfect system of recordation was underwritten by 
the practice of utilitarian reforms: the union of judicial and executive 
powers in the tax collector, the codification of the law, the ryotwar system 
of land settlement, and an accurate survey and record of landed rights. 
But nowhere was this faith in a government of recordation made more 
problematic than in the dependence of his central concept of 'public 
discussion' on the fundamental principle of speech 4 as the guarantee of 
good government. Nobody who has witnessed Mill's vision of the value 
of individual independence can be blind to that passionate principle of 
speech that makes it so - 'a vivid conception and a strong belief', 5 not 
learned by rote or written but, as he says, articulated with a direct 
' "living feeling power" which spreads from the words spoken to the 
things signified and forces the mind to take them in and make them 
conform to the formula'. 6 Nobody who has read Mill's metaphors of 
authority can fail to see that for him the sign of civility is not so much 
the Lockean consent to Property, nor the Hobbesian assent to Law, 
but the spirited sound of the vox populi, engaged as an individual in 
public discussion, that 'steady communal habit of correcting his own 
opinion and collating it with those of others'. 7 

Nobody who grasps that for Mill the boundaries of the national 
culture are open so long as the voices of dissent remain individual and 
closed when that culture is threatened by collective dissension, can fail 
to hear him propounding the nationalist ideology of unisonance* as 
Benedict Anderson describes it, a contemporaneous cultural cohesion 
connecting its national subjects through the undifferentiated simultan- 
eity of an 'aural' imaginary. And once this nationalist, authoritarian tone 
is caught in speech, it is possible to see in xvriting, how Mill echoes 
Cicero's forensic principle 'that individuals must throw themselves into 
the mental position of those who think differently from them' 9 only to 
use it ambivalently; both as the principle that preserves the liberty of 
the Western individualist 'public sphere' as well as a strategy for polic- 
ing the culturally and racially differentiated colonial space: 'Where you 
have not the advantage given by representative government of discussion 
[my emphasis] by persons of all partialities, prepossessions and 
interests,' Mill continues in his testimony before the Lords, 'you cannot 
have a perfect substitute for this, still some substitute [such as recor- 
dation] is better than none.' 10 

The political moment of cultural difference emerges within the prob- 
lematic of colonial govemmentality, and eclipses the transparency 
between legibility and legitimate rule. Mill's 'recordation' now embodies 
the practice of writing as a strategy of colonialist regulation, and the 
mimetic adequacy of draft and dispatch is somewhat in doubt. 

To know that the embryonic ideas of Mill's essays 'On Liberty' and 
'Representative Government' were originally formulated in a draft dis- 



patch on Indian education, written in response to Macaulay's infamous 
'Minute' of 1835, is to realize - in that fine intertextual irony - both 
the limitations of liberty and the problems of establishing a mode of 
governmental discourse that requires a colonial substitute for democratic 
'public discussion'. Such a process of substitution is precisely Mill's 
system of recordation: events experienced and inscribed in India are to 
be read otherwise, transformed into the acts of governments and the 
discourse of authority in another place, at another time. Such a syntax of 
deferral must not merely be recognized as a theoretical object, the deferral 
of the space of writing - the sign under erasure - but acknowledged 
as a specific colonial temporality and textuality of that space between 
enunciation and address. As G. D. Bearce has written, the transaction 
on paper to take effect at the other side of the globe was not, according 
to Mill, 'of itself calculated to give much practical knowledge of life'." 

Between the Western sign and its colonial signification there emerges 
a map of misreading that embarrasses the righteousness of recordation 
and its certainty of good government. It opens up a space of interpre- 
tation and misappropriation that inscribes an ambivalence at the very 
origins of colonial authority, indeed, within the originary documents of 
British colonial history itself. It is probable that writing 15,000 miles 
from the place where their orders were to be carried into effect', writes 
Macaulay in his essay on Warren Hastings, the Directors of the East 
India Company 

never perceived the gross inconsistency of which they were 
guilty. . . . Whoever examines their letters written at that time, will 
find there many just and humane sentiments ... an admirable 

code of political ethics Now these instructions, being interpreted, 

mean simply, 'Be the father and the oppressor of the people; be 
just and unjust, moderate and rapacious.' 12 (My emphasis) 

To describe these texts as 'despatches of hypocrisy' 13 as Macaulay has 
done, is to moralize both the intention of writing and the object of 
government. To talk of duplicity is to fail to read the specific discursive 
doubleness that Macaulay insists exists only between the lines; to fail 
to see that form of multiple and contradictory belief that emerges as an 
effect of the ambivalent, deferred address of colonialist governance. 
Such a split in enunciation can no longer be contained with the 'unison- 
ance' of civil discourse - although it must be spoken by it - nor written 
in what Walter Benjamin calls the 'homogeneous empty time' 14 of the 
Western nationalist discourse which normalizes its own history of col- 
onial expansion and exploitation by inscribing the history of the other 
in a fixed hierarchy of civil progress. What is articulated in the double- 
ness of colonial discourse is not simply the violence of one powerful 
nation writing out the history of another. 'Be the father and the 



oppressor . . . just and unjust' is a mode of contradictory utterance 
that ambivalently reinscribes, across differential power relations, both 
colonizer and colonized. For it reveals an agonistic uncertainty contained 
in the incompatibility of empire and nation; it puts on trial the very 
discourse of civility within which representative government claims its 
liberty and empire its ethics. Those substitutive objects of colonialist 
govemmentality - be they systems of recordation, or 'intermediate 
bodies' of political and administrative control - are strategies of surveil- 
lance that cannot maintain their civil authority once the colonial sup- 
plementarity, or excess of their address is revealed. 

Recordation is faced, 'between-the-lines', with its double existence in 
the discursive practice of a board of directors or a colonial civil service. 
This produces a strange irony of reference. For if the primary impulse 
and address of government emanates not from the democratic represen- 
tatives of a people, but from the members of a service, or as Mill describes 
it, a system that must be calculated to form its agents of government, 
then, in asserting the natural rights of empire, Mill's proposal implicitly 
erases all that is taken as 'second nature' within Western civility. It 
separates the customary association of a territory with a people; not 
least, it breaks with any assumption of a natural link between democracy 
and discussion. The representative nineteenth-century discourse of lib- 
eral individualism loses both its power of speech and its politics of 
individual choice when it is confronted with an aporia. In a figure 
of repetition, there emerges the uncanny double of democracy itself: 'to 
govern one country under responsibility to the people of another ... is 
despotism,' Mill writes. 

The only choice the case admits is a choice of despotisms There 

are, as we have already seen, conditions of society in which a 
vigorous despotism is in itself the best mode of government for 
training the people in what is specifically wanting to render them 
capable of a higher civilization. 15 

To be the father and the oppressor; just and unjust; moderate and 
rapacious; vigorous and despotic: these instances of contradictory belief, 
doubly inscribed in the deferred address of colonial discourse, raise 
questions about the symbolic space of colonial authority. What is the 
image of authority if it is civility's supplement and democracy's despotic 
double? How is it exercised if, as Macaulay suggests, it must be read 
between the lines, within the interdictory borders of civility itself? Why 
does the spectre of eighteenth-century despotism - that regime of pri- 
mordial fixity, repetition, historylessness, and social death - haunt these 
vigorous nineteenth-century colonial practices of muscular Christianity 
and the civilizing mission? Can despotism, however vigorous, inspire a 



colony of individuals when the dread letter of despotic law can only 
instil the spirit of servitude? 

To ask these questions is to see that the subject of colonial discourse 
- splitting, doubling, turning into its opposite, projecting - is a subject 
of such affective ambivalence and discursive disturbance, that the narra- 
tive of English history can only ever beg the 'colonial' question. 
Deprived of its customary 'civil' reference, even the most traditional 
historical narrative accedes to the language of fantasy and desire. The 
modem colonizing imagination conceives of its dependencies as a terri- 
tory, never as a people, wrote Sir Herman Merivale in 1839 in his influen- 
tial Oxford lectures on colonization 16 which led to his appointment as 
Under Secretary of State for India. The effect of this distinction, he 
concludes, is that colonies are not conducive to disinterested control. 
Too often, their governance is overwhelmed by a feeling of national 
pride expressed in an exciting pleasure, an imaginary sense of power 
in extensive possessions which might turn into a Cyclopean policy. If 
such passion be political, then I suggest that we should pose the ques- 
tion of the ambivalence of colonialist authority in the language of the 
vicissitudes of the narcissistic demand for colonial objects, which inter- 
venes so powerfully in the nationalist fantasy of boundless, extensive 

What threatens the authority of colonial command is the ambivalence 
of its address - father and oppressor or, alternatively, the ruled and 
reviled - which will not be resolved in a dialectical play of power. For 
these doubly inscribed figures face two ways without being two-faced. 
Western imperialist discourse continually puts under erasure the civil 
state, as the colonial text emerges uncertainly within its narrative of 
progress. Between the civil address and its colonial signification - each 
axis displaying a problem of recognition and repetition - shuttles the 
signifier of authority in search of a strategy of surveillance, subjection, 
and inscription. Here there can be no dialectic of the master-slave for 
where discourse is so disseminated can there ever be the passage from 
trauma to transcendence? From alienation to authority? Both colonizer 
and colonized are in a process of miscognition where each point of 
identification is always a partial and double repetition of the otherness 
of the self - democrat and despot, individual and servant, native and 

It is around the 'and' - that conjunction of infinite repetition - that 
the ambivalence of civil authority circulates as a 'colonial' signifier 
that is less than one and double. 17 The position of authority is alienated at 
the point of civil enunciation - less than liberty, in Mill's case - and 
doubles at the point of colonialist address - just and unjust or the 
doubling of democracy as vigorous despotism. Such is the devious 
strategy of Montesquieu's idea of despotism which authoritatively 



shaped the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries' image of Mughal and 
Brahmin India. For Montesquieu, it is in the difference between mon- 
archy and absolute monarchy (that is, sovereignty without honour) that 
despotism emerges as a textualization of the Turk and faces Versailles 
and the Court with its uncanny horrifying double. 18 Alexander Dow's 
History of Hindustan (1768), Sir Charles Grant's influential 'Observations' 
(1794), James Mills's monumental History of India (1816), Macaulay's 
'Minute on Indian education' (1835), Duff's authoritative India and India 
Missions (1839): in all these, the strategic splitting of the colonial dis- 
course - less than one and double - is contained by addressing the 
other as despot. For despite its connotations of death, repetition and 
servitude, the despotic configuration is a monocausal system that relates 
all differences and discourses to the absolute, undivided, boundless 
body of the despot. It is this image of India as a primordial fixity - as 
a narcissistic inverted other - that satisfies the self-fulfilling prophecy 
of Western progress and stills, for a while, the supplementary signifier 
of colonial discourse. 

But what of the other 'native' scene of colonialist intervention where 
the ambivalence of authority - be it moderate and rapacious - is 
required, Macaulay suggests, as a strategy of surveillance and exploita- 
tion? If the idea of despotism homogenizes India's past, the colonialist 
present requires a strategy of calculation in relation to its native subjects. 
This need is addressed in a vigorous demand for narrative, embodied in 
the utilitarian or evolutionary ideologies of reason and progress; a 
demand which is, nonetheless, in Derrida's words, a matter for the 

an inquisitorial insistence, an order, a petition To demand the 

narrative of the other, to extort it from him like a secretless secret, 
something that they call the truth about what has taken place, Tell 
us exactly what happened.' 19 

The narratorial voice articulates the narcissistic, colonialist demand 
that it should be addressed directly, that the Other should authorize the 
self, recognize its priority, fulfil its outlines, replete, indeed repeat, its 
references and still its fractured gaze. 

From the journals of the missionary C. T. E. Rhenius, 1818: 

Rhenius: What do you want? 

Indian Pilgrim: Whatever you give I take. 

R: What then do you want? 
IP: I have already enough of everything. 

R: Do you know God? 

IP: I know he is in me. When you put rice into a mortar and stamp 
it with a pestle, the rice gets clean. So, God is known to me 



[the comparisons of the Heathen are often incomprehensible to 

a European]. . . . 
IP: But tell me in what shape do you like to see him? 
R: In the shape of the Almighty, the Omniscient, the Omnipresent, 

the Eternal, the Unchangeable, the Holy One, the Righteous, the 

Truth, the Wisdom and the Love. 
IP: I shall show him to you: but first you must learn all that I have 

learned - then you will see God. 20 

And this from a sermon by Archdeacon Potts in 1818: 

If you urge them with their gross and unworthy misconceptions 
of the nature and the will of God, or the monstrous follies of their 
fabulous theology, they will turn it off with a sly civility perhaps, 
or with a popular and careless proverb. You may be told that 
'heaven is a wide place, and has a thousand gates'; and that their 
religion is one by which they hope to enter. Thus, together with 
their fixed persuasions, they have their sceptical conceits. By such 
evasions they can dismiss the merits of the case from all consider- 
ation; and encourage men to think that the vilest superstition may 
serve to every salutary purpose, and be accepted in the sight of 
God as well as truth and righteousness. 21 

In the native refusal to satisfy the colonizer's narrative demand, we 
hear the echoes of Freud's sabre-rattling strangers, with whom I began 
this chapter. The natives' resistance represents a frustration of that nine- 
teenth-century strategy of surveillance, the confession, which seeks to 
dominate the 'calculable' individual by positing the truth that the subject 
has but does not know. The incalculable native produces a problem for 
civil representation in the discourses of literature and legality. This 
uncertainty impressed itself on Nathanael Halhed whose A Code of 
Gentoo Laws (1776) was the canonical colonialist codification of Indian 
'native' law, but he was only able to read this resistance to calculation 
and testimony as native 'folly' or 'temporary frenzy . . . something like 
the madness so inimitably delineated in the hero of Cervantes'. 22 The 
native answers display the continual slippage between civil inscription 
and colonial address. The uncertainty generated by such resistance 
changes the narratorial demand itself. What was spoken within the 
orders of civility now accedes to the colonial signifier. The question is 
no longer Derrida's 'Tell us exactly what happened.' From the point of 
view of the colonizer, passionate for unbounded, unpeopled possession, 
the problem of truth turns into the troubled political and psychic ques- 
tion of boundary and territory: Tell us why you, the native, are there. 
Etymologically unsettled, 'territory' derives from both terra (earth) and 
terrSre (to frighten) whence territorium, 'a place from which people are 



frightened off'. 23 . The colonialist demand for narrative carries, within it, 
its threatening reversal: Tell us why we are here. It is this echo that reveals 
that the other side of narcissistic authority may be the paranoia of 
power; a desire for 'authorization' in the face of a process of cultural 
differentiation which makes it problematic to fix the native objects of 
colonial power as the moralized 'others' of truth. 

The native refusal to unify the authoritarian, colonialist address within 
the terms of civil engagement gives the subject of colonial authority - 
father and oppressor - another turn. This ambivalent 'and', always less 
than one and double, traces the times and spaces between civil address 
and colonial articulation. The authoritarian demand can now only be 
justified if it is contained in the language of paranoia. The refusal to 
return and restore the image of authority to the eye of power has to be 
reinscribed as implacable aggression, assertively coming from without: 
He hates me. Such justification follows the familiar conjugation of per- 
secutory paranoia. The frustrated wish 'I want him to love me/ turns 
into its opposite 'I hate him' and thence through projection and the 
exclusion of the first person, 'He hates me.' 24 

Projection is never a self-fulfilling prophecy; never a simple 'scape- 
goat' fantasy. The other's aggressivity from without, that justifies the 
subject of authority, makes that very subject a frontier station of joint 
occupation, as the psychoanalyst Robert Waelder has written. 25 Projec- 
tion may compel the native to address the master, but it can never 
produce those effects of 'love' or 'truth' that would centre the con- 
fessional demand. If, through projection, the native is partially aligned 
or reformed in discourse, the fixed hate which refuses to circulate or 
reconjugate, produces the repeated fantasy of the native as in-between 
legality and illegality, endangering the boundaries of truth itself. 

The litigious, lying native became a central object of nineteenth- 
century colonial, legal regulation. Each winter an Indian magistrate 
was dispatched to the Caribbean to adjudicate over the incalculable 
indentured Indian coolies. That the process of colonial intervention, its 
institutionalization and normalization, may itself be an Entstellung, a 
displacement, is the symbolic reality that must be disavowed. It is this 
ambivalence that ensues within paranoia as a play between eternal 
vigilance and blindness, and estranges the image of authority in its 
strategy of justification. For, excluded as the first-person subject and 
addressed by an aggressivity prior to itself, the figure of authority must 
always be belated; after and outside the event if it wants to be virtuous, 
and yet master of the situation, if it wants to be victorious: 

The English in India are part of a belligerent civilisation . . . they 
are the representatives of peace compelled by force. No country in 
the world is more orderly, more quiet or more peaceful than British 



India as it is, but if the vigour of the government should ever be 
relaxed, if it should lose its essential unity of purpose . . . chaos 
would come again like a flood. 26 

Delusions of 'the end of the world' - as Judge Schreber confessed to 
Freud - are the common tropes of paranoia, and it is with that in mind 
that we should reread Fitzjames Stephen's famous apocalyptic formu- 
lation that I've quoted above. In the oscillation between apocalypse and 
chaos, we see the emergence of an anxiety associated with the narciss- 
istic vision and its two-dimensional space. It is an anxiety which will 
not abate because the empty third space, the other space of symbolic 
representation, at once bar and bearer of difference, is closed to the 
paranoid position of power. In the colonial discourse, that space of 
the other is always occupied by an idiefixe: despot, heathen, barbarian, 
chaos, violence. If these symbols are always the same, their ambivalent 
repetition makes them the signs of a much deeper crisis of authority 
that emerges in the lawless writing of the colonial sense. There, the 
hybrid tongues of the colonial space make even the repetition of the name 
of God uncanny: 'every native term which the Christian missionary can 
employ to communicate the Divine truth is already appropriated as the 
chosen symbol of some counterpart deadly error' writes Alexander Duff, 
the most celebrated of nineteenth-century Indian missionaries, with 

You vary your language and tell [the natives that] there must be 
a second birth. Now it so happens that this and all similar phras- 
eology is preoccupied. 

The communication of the Gayatri, or the most sacred verse in 
the Vedas . . . constitutes religiously and metaphorically the nati- 
ves' second birth Your improved language might only convey 

that all must become famous Brahmans ere they can see God. 27 
(My emphasis) 




Questions of ambivalence and authority 
under a tree outside Delhi, May 1817 

A remarkable peculiarity is that they (the English) always write the per- 
sonal pronoun I with a capital letter. May we not consider this Great I 
as an unintended proof how much an Englishman thinks of his own 

Robert Southey, Letters from England 1 

There is a scene in the cultural writings of English colonialism which 
repeats so insistently after the early nineteenth century - and, through 
that repetition, so triumphantly inaugurates a literature of empire - that 
I am bound to repeat it once more. It is the scenario, played out in the 
wild and wordless wastes of colonial India, Africa, the Caribbean, of 
the sudden, fortuitous discovery of the English book. It is, like all myths 
of origin, memorable for its balance between epiphany and enunciation. 
The discovery of the book is, at once, a moment of originality and 
authority. It is, as well, a process of displacement that, paradoxically, 
makes the presence of the book wondrous to the extent to which it is 
repeated, translated, misread, displaced. It is with the emblem of the 
English book - 'signs taken for wonders' - as an insignia of colonial 
authority and a signifier of colonial desire and discipline, that I want 
to begin this chapter. 

In the first week of May 1817, Anund Messeh, one of the earliest 
Indian catechists, made a hurried and excited journey from his mission 
in Meerut to a grove of trees just outside Delhi. 

He found about 500 people, men, women and children, seated 
under the shade of the trees, and employed, as had been related 
to him, in reading and conversation. He went up to an elderly 
looking man, and accosted him, and the following conversation 

'Pray who are all these people? and whence come they?' 'We 
are poor and lowly, and we read and love this book.' - 'What is 
that book?' 'The book of God!' - 'Let me look at it, if you please.' 



Anund, on opening the book, perceived it to be the Gospel of our 
Lord, translated into the Hindoostanee Tongue, many copies of 
which seemed to be in the possession of the party: some were 
PRINTED, others WRITTEN by themselves from the printed ones. 
Anund pointed to the name of Jesus, and asked, 'Who is that?' 
'That is God! He gave us this book.' - 'Where did you obtain it?' 
'An Angel from heaven gave it us, at Hurdwar fair.' - 'An Angel?' 
'Yes, to us he was God's Angel: but he was a man, a learned 
Pundit.' (Doubtless these translated Gospels must have been the 
books distributed, five or six years ago, at Hurdwar by the 
Missionary.) 'The written copies we write ourselves, having no 
other means of obtaining more of this blessed word.' - 'These 
books/ said Anund, 'teach the religion of the European Sahibs. It 
is THEIR book; and they printed it in our language, for our use.' 
'Ah! no,' replied the stranger, 'that cannot be, for they eat flesh.' - 
'Jesus Christ/ said Anund, 'teaches that it does not signify what a 
man eats or drinks. EATING is nothing before God. Not that which 
entereth into a man's mouth defileth him, but that which cometh out of 
the mouth, this defileth a man: for vile things come forth from the 
heart. Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, forni- 
cations, thefts; and these are the things that defile.' 

'That is true; but how can it be the European Book, when we 
believe that it is God's gift to us? He sent it to us at Hurdwar.' 

'God gave it long ago to the Sahibs, and THEY sent it to us.' 

The ignorance and simplicity of many are very striking, never 
having heard of a printed book before; and its very appearance 
was to them miraculous. A great stir was excited by the gradual 
increasing information hereby obtained, and all united to acknow- 
ledge the superiority of the doctrines of this Holy Book to every 
thing which they had hitherto heard or known. An indifference to 
the distinctions of Caste soon manifested itself; and the interference 
and tyrannical authority of the Brahmins became more offensive 
and contemptible. At last, it was determined to separate themselves 
from the rest of their Hindoo Brethren; and to establish a party of 
their own choosing, four or five, who could read the best, to be 
the public teachers from this newly-acquired Book. . . . Anund 
asked them, 'Why are you all dressed in white?' 'The people of 
God should wear white raiment,' was the reply, 'as a sign that 
they are clean, and rid of their sins.' - Anund observed, 'You 
ought to be BAPTIZED, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, 
and of the Holy Ghost. Come to Meerut: there is a Christian Padre 
there; and he will shew you what you ought to do.' They answered, 
'Now we must go home to the harvest; but, as we mean to meet 
once a year, perhaps the next year we may come to Meerut.'. . . I 



explained to them the nature of the Sacrament and of Baptism; in 
answer to which, they replied, 'We are willing to be baptized, but 
we will never take the Sacrament. To all the other customs of 
Christians we are willing to conform, but not to the Sacrament, 
because the Europeans eat cow's flesh, and this will never do for 
us.' To this I answered, "This WORD is of God, and not of men; 
and when HE makes your hearts to understand, then you will 
PROPERLY comprehend it.' They replied, 'If all our country 
will receive this Sacrament, then will we.' I then observed, "The 
time is at hand, when all the countries will receive this WORD!' 
They replied, 'True!' 2 

Almost a hundred years later, in 1902, Joseph Conrad's Marlow, trav- 
elling in the Congo, in the night of the first ages, without a sign and 
no memories, cut off from the comprehension of his surroundings, 
desperately in need of a deliberate belief, comes upon Towson's (or 
Towser's) Inquiry into some Points of Seamanship. 

Not a very enthralling book; but at the first glance you could see 
there a singleness of intention, an honest concern for the right way 
of going to work, which made these humble pages, thought out 
so many years ago, luminous with another than a professional 
light. ... I assure you to leave off reading was like tearing myself 

away from the shelter of an old and solid friendship 

'It must be this miserable trader - this intruder,' exclaimed the 
manager, looking back malevolently at the place we had left. 'He 
must be English/ I said. 3 

Half a century later, a young Trinidadian discovers that same volume 
of Towson's in that very passage from Conrad and draws from it a 
vision of literature and a lesson of history. 'The scene', writes V. S. 

answered some of the political panic I was beginning to feel. 

To be a colonial was to know a kind of security; it was to inhabit 
a fixed world. And I suppose that in my fantasy I had seen 
myself coming to England as to some purely literary region, where, 
untrammeled by the accidents of history or background, I could 
make a romantic career for myself as a writer. But in the new 

world I felt that ground move below me Conrad . . . had been 

everywhere before me. Not as a man with a cause, but a man 
offering ... a vision of the world's half-made societies . . . where 
always 'something inherent in the necessities of successful action 
. . . carried with it the moral degradation of the idea.' Dismal but 
deeply felt: a kind of truth and half a consolation. 4 



Written as they are in the name of the father and the author, these 
texts of the civilizing mission immediately suggest the triumph of the 
colonialist moment in early English Evangelism and modem English 
literature. The discovery of the book installs the sign of appropriate 
representation: the word of God, truth, art creates the conditions for a 
beginning, a practice of history and narrative. But the institution of the 
Word in the wilds is also an Entstellung, a process of displacement, 
distortion, dislocation, repetition 5 - the dazzling light of literature sheds 
only areas of darkness. Still the idea of the English book is presented 
as universally adequate: like the 'metaphoric writing of the West', it 
communicates 'the immediate vision of the thing, freed from the dis- 
course that accompanied it, or even encumbered it. 6 

Shortly before the discovery of the book, Marlow interrogates the 
odd, inappropriate, 'colonial' transformation of a textile into an uncer- 
tain textual sign, possibly a fetish: 

Why? Where did he get it? Was it a badge - an ornament - a 
charm - a propitiatory act? Was there any idea at all connected 
with it? It looked startling round his black neck, this bit of white 
thread from beyond the seas. 7 

Such questions of the historical act of enunciation, which carry a political 
intent, are lost, a few pages later, in the myth of origins and discovery. 
The immediate vision of the book figures those ideological correlatives 
of the Western sign - empiricism, idealism, mimeticism, monocultural- 
ism (to use Edward Said's term) - that sustain a tradition of English 
'cultural' authority. They create a revisionary narrative that sustains the 
discipline of Commonwealth history and its epigone, Commonwealth 
literature. The conflictual moment of colonialist intervention is turned 
into that constitutive discourse of exemplum and imitation, that Fried- 
rich Nietzsche describes as the monumental history beloved of 'gifted 
egoists and visionary scoundrels'. 8 For despite the accident of discovery, 
the repetition of the emergence of the book, represents important 
moments in the historical transformation and discursive transfiguration 
of the colonial text and context. 

Anund Messeh's riposte to the natives who refuse the sacrament - 
'The time is at hand, when all countries will receive this WORD' (my 
emphasis) - is both firmly and timely spoken in 1817. For it represents 
a shift away from the 'Orientalist' educational practice of, say, Warren 
Hastings and the much more interventionist and 'interpellative' 
ambition of Charles Grant for a culturally and linguistically homo- 
geneous English India. It was with Grant's election to the board of the 
East India Company in 1794 and to Parliament in 1802, and through his 
energetic espousal of the Evangelical ideals of the Clapham sect, that 
the East India Company reintroduced a 'pious clause' into its charter 



for 1813. By 1817 the Church Missionary Society ran sixty-one schools, 
and in 1818 it commissioned the Burdwan Plan, a central plan of edu- 
cation for instruction in the English language. The aim of the plan 
anticipates, almost to the word, Thomas Macaulay's infamous 1835 
'Minute on Education': 'to form a body of well instructed labourers, 
competent in their proficiency in English to act as Teachers, Translators, 
and Compilers of useful works for the masses of the people.' 9 Anund 
Messeh's lifeless repetition of chapter and verse, his artless technique 
of translation, participate in one of the most artful technologies of col- 
onial power. In the same month that Anund Messeh discovered the 
miraculous effects of the book outside Delhi - May 1817 - a corres- 
pondent of the Church Missionary Society wrote to London describing 
the method of English education at Father John's mission in Tranquebar: 

The principal method of teaching them the English language 
would be by giving them English phrases and sentences, with a 
translation for them to commit to memory. These sentences might 
be so arranged as to teach them whatever sentiments the instructor 
should choose. They would become, in short, attached to the Mis- 
sion; and though first put into the school from worldly motives 
alone, should any of them be converted, accustomed as they are 
to the language, manners and climate of the country, they might 
soon be prepared for a great usefulness in the cause of religion. . . . 
In this way the Heathens themselves might be made the instru- 
ments of pulling down their own religion, and of erecting in its 
ruins the standards of the Cross. 

(MR, May 1817, p. 187) 

Marlow's ruminative closing statement, 'He must be English', 
acknowledges at the heart of darkness, in Conrad's fin de siecle malaise, 
the particular debt that both Marlow and Conrad owe to the ideals of 
English 'liberty' and its liberal-conservative culture. 10 Caught as he is - 
between the madness of 'prehistoric' Africa and the unconscious desire 
to repeat the traumatic intervention of modem colonialism within the 
compass of a seaman's yam - Towson's manual provides Marlow with 
a singleness of intention. It is the book of work that turns delirium into 
the discourse of civil address. For the ethic of work, as Conrad was to 
exemplify in 'Tradition' (1918), provides a sense of right conduct and 
honour achievable only through the acceptance of those 'customary' 
norms which are the signs of culturally cohesive 'civil' communities. 11 
These aims of the civilizing mission, endorsed in the 'idea' of British 
imperialism and enacted on the red sections of the map, speak with a 
peculiarly English authority derived from the customary practice on 
which both English common law and the English national language rely 
for their effectivity and appeal. 12 It is the ideal of English civil discourse 



that permits Conrad to entertain the ideological ambivalences that riddle 
his narratives. It is under its watchful eye that he allows the fraught text 
of late nineteenth-century imperialism to implode within the practices of 
early modernism. The devastating effects of such an encounter are not 
only contained in an (un)common yam; they are concealed in the pro- 
priety of a civil 'lie' told to the Intended (the complicity of the 
customary?): 'The horror! The horror!' must not be repeated in the draw- 
ing-rooms of Europe. 

Naipaul 'translates' Conrad from Africa to the Caribbean in order to 
transform the despair of postcolonial history into an appeal for the 
autonomy of art. The more fiercely he believes that 'the wisdom of 
the heart ha[s] no concern with the erection or demolition of theories/ 
the more convinced he becomes of the unmediated nature of the Western 
book - 'the words it pronounces have the value of acts of integrity.' 13 
The values that such a perspective generates for his own work, and for 
the once colonized world it chooses to represent and evaluate, are visible 
in the hideous panorama that some of his titles provide: 77k Loss of El 
Dorado, The Mimic Men, An Area of Darkness, A Wounded Civilization, The 
Overcrowded Barracoon. 

The discovery of the English book establishes both a measure of 
mimesis and a mode of civil authority and order. If these scenes, as I 
have narrated them, suggest the triumph of the writ of colonialist power, 
then it must be conceded that the wily letter of the law inscribes a 
much more ambivalent text of authority. For it is in-between the edict 
of Englishness and the assault of the dark unruly spaces of the earth, 
through an act of repetition, that the colonial text emerges uncertainly. 
Anund Messeh disavows the natives' disturbing questions as he returns 
to repeat the now questionable 'authority' of Evangelical dicta. Marlow 
turns away from the African jungle to recognize, in retrospect, the 
peculiarly 'English' quality of the discovery of the book. Naipaul turns 
his back on the hybrid half-made colonial world to fix his eye on the 
universal domain of English literature. What we witness is neither an 
untroubled, innocent dream of England nor a 'secondary revision' of 
the nightmare of India, Africa, the Caribbean. What is 'English' in these 
discourses of colonial power cannot be represented as a plenitudinous 
presence; it is determined by its belatedness. As a signifier of authority, 
the English book acquires its meaning after the traumatic scenario of 
colonial difference, cultural or racial, returns the eye of power to some 
prior, archaic image or identity. Paradoxically, however, such an image 
can neither be 'original' - by virtue of the act of repetition that constructs 
it - nor 'identical' - by virtue of the difference that defines it. 

Consequently, the colonial presence is always ambivalent, split 
between its appearance as original and authoritative and its articulation 
as repetition and difference. It is a disjunction produced within the 



act of enunciation as a specifically colonial articulation of those two 
disproportionate sites of colonial discourse and power: the colonial scene 
as the invention of historicity, mastery, mimesis or as the 'other scene' of 
Entstellung, displacement, fantasy, psychic defence, and an 'open' tex- 
tuality. Such a display of difference produces a mode of authority that 
is agonistic (rather than antagonistic). Its discriminatory effects are vis- 
ible in those split subjects of the racist stereotype - the simian Negro, 
the effeminate Asiatic male - which ambivalently fix identity as the 
fantasy of difference. 14 To recognize the differance of the colonial presence 
is to realize that the colonial text occupies that space of double inscrip- 
tion, hallowed - no, hollowed - by Jacques Derrida: 

whenever any writing both marks and goes back over its mark 
with an undecidable stroke . . . [this] double mark escapes the 
pertinence or authority of truth: it does not overturn it but rather 
inscribes it within its play as one of its functions or parts. This 
displacement does not take place, has not taken place once as an 
event. It does not occupy a simple place. It does not take place in 
writing. This dis-location (is what) writes/is written. 

(D, p. 193) 

How can the question of authority, the power and presence of the 
English, be posed in the interstices of a double inscription? I have no 
wish to replace an idealist myth - the metaphoric English book - with 
a historicist one - the colonialist project of English civility. Such a 
reductive reading would deny what is obvious, that the representation 
of colonial authority depends less on a universal symbol of English 
identity than on its productivity as a sign of difference. Yet in my use 
of 'English' there is a transparency of reference that registers a certain 
obvious presence: the Bible translated into Hindi, propagated by Dutch 
or native catechists, is still the English book; a Polish emigre, deeply 
influenced by Gustave Flaubert, writing about Africa, produces an 
English classic. What is there about such a process of visibility and 
recognition that never fails to be an authoritative acknowledgement 
without ceasing to be a 'spacing between desire and fulfilment, between 
perpetuation and its recollection ... [a] medium [which] has nothing to 
do with a center' (D, p. 212)? 

This question demands a departure from Derrida's objectives in 'The 
double session'; a turning away from the vicissitudes of interpretation 
in the mimetic act of reading to the question of the effects of power, 
the inscription of strategies of individuation and domination in those 
'dividing practices' which construct the colonial space - a departure 
from Derrida which is also a return to those moments in his essay when 
he acknowledges the problematic of 'presence' as a certain quality of 
discursive transparency which he describes as 'the production of mere 



reality-effects' or 'the effect of content' or as the problematic relation 
between the 'medium of writing and the determination of each textual 
unit'. In the rich ruses and rebukes with which he shows up the 'false 
appearance of the present', Derrida fails to decipher the specific and 
determinate system of address (not referent) that is signified by the 'effect 
of content' (see D, pp. 173-85). It is precisely such a strategy of address 
- the immediate presence of the English - that engages the questions of 
authority that I want to raise. When the ocular metaphors of presence 
refer to the process by which content is fixed as an 'effect of the present', 
we encounter not plenitude but the structured gaze of power whose 
objective is authority, whose 'subjects' are historical. 

The reality effect constructs a mode of address in which a comple- 
mentarity of meaning produces the moment of discursive transparency. 
It is the moment when, 'under the false appearance of the present', 
the semantic seems to prevail over the syntactic, the signified over the 
signifier. Contrary to current avant-garde orthodoxy, however, the trans- 
parent is neither simply the triumph of the 'imaginary' capture of the 
subject in realist narrative nor the ultimate interpellation of the indi- 
vidual by ideology. It is not a proposal that you cannot positively refuse. 
It is better described, I suggest, as a form of the disposal of those 
discursive signs of presence/the present within the strategies that articu- 
late the range of meanings from 'dispose to disposition'. 

Transparency is the action of the distribution and arrangement of 
differential spaces, positions, knowledges in relation to each other, rela- 
tive to a discriminatory, not inherent, sense of order. This effects a 
regulation of spaces and places that is authoritatively assigned; it puts 
the addressee into the proper frame or condition for some action or 
result. Such a mode of governance addresses itself to a form of conduct 
that equivocates between the sense of disposal, as the bestowal of a 
frame of reference, and disposition, as mental inclination, a frame of 
mind. Such equivocation allows neither an equivalence of the two sites 
of disposal nor their division as self /other, subject/object. Transparency 
achieves an effect of authority in the present (and an authoritative 
presence) through a process similar to what Michel Foucault describes 
as 'an effect of finalisation, relative to an objective', without its necessary 
attribution to a subject that makes a prohibitory law, thou shalt or thou 
shalt not. 15 

The place of difference and otherness, or the space of the adversarial, 
within such a system of 'disposal' as I've proposed, is never entirely on 
the outside or implacably oppositional. It is a pressure, and a presence, 
that acts constantly, if unevenly, along the entire boundary of authoriz- 
ation, that is, on the surface between what I've called disposal-as- 
bestowal and disposition-as-inclination. The contour of difference is 
agonistic, shifting, splitting, rather like Freud's description of the system 



of consciousness which occupies a position in space lying on the border- 
line between outside and inside, a surface of protection, reception and 
projection. 16 The power play of presence is lost if its transparency is 
treated naively as the nostalgia for plenitude that should be flung repeat- 
edly into the abyss - mise en abime - from which its desire is bom. 
Such theoreticist anarchism cannot intervene in the agonistic space of 
authority where 

the true and the false are separated and specific effects of power 
[are] attached to the true, it being understood also that it is not a 
matter of a battle 'on behalf of the truth, but of a battle about the 
status of truth and the economic and political role it plays. 17 

It is precisely to intervene in such a battle for the status of the truth 
that it becomes crucial to examine the presence of the English book. For 
it is this surface that stabilizes the agonistic colonial space; it is its 
appearance that regulates the ambivalence between origin and displace- 
ment, discipline and desire, mimesis and repetition. 

Despite appearances, the text of transparency inscribes a double 
vision: the field of the 'true' emerges as a visible sign of authority only 
after the regulatory and displacing division of the true and the false. 
From this point of view, discursive 'transparency' is best read in the 
photographic sense in which a transparency is also always a negative, 
processed into visibility through the technologies of reversal, enlarge- 
ment, lighting, editing, projection, not a source but a re-source of light. 
Such a bringing to light is a question of the provision of visibility as a 
capacity, a strategy, an agency. 

This is the question that brings us to the ambivalence of the presence 
of authority, peculiarly visible in its colonial articulation. For if trans- 
parency signifies discursive closure - intention, image, author - it does 
so through a disclosure of its rules of recognition - those social texts of 
epistemic, ethnocentric, nationalist intelligibility which cohere in the 
address of authority as the 'present', the voice of modernity. The 
acknowledgement of authority depends upon the immediate - unme- 
diated - visibility of its rules of recognition as the unmistakable referent 
of historical necessity In the doubly inscribed space of colonial represen- 
tation where the presence of authority - the English book - is also a 
question of its repetition and displacement, where transparency is techne, 
the immediate visibility of such a regime of recognition is resisted. 
Resistance is not necessarily an oppositional act of political intention, 
nor is it the simple negation or exclusion of the 'content' of another 
culture, as a difference once perceived. It is the effect of an ambivalence 
produced within the rules of recognition of dominating discourses as 
they articulate the signs of cultural difference and reimplicate them 
within the deferential relations of colonial power - hierarchy, normaliz- 



ation, marginalization and so forth. For colonial domination is achieved 
through a process of disavowal that denies the chaos of its intervention 
as Entstellung, its dislocatory presence in order to preserve the authority 
of its identity in the teleological narratives of historical and political 

The exercise of colonialist authority, however, requires the production 
of differentiations, individuations, identity effects through which dis- 
criminatory practices can map out subject populations that are tarred 
with the visible and transparent mark of power. Such a mode of subjec- 
tion is distinct from what Foucault describes as 'power through trans- 
parency': the reign of opinion, after the late eighteenth century, which 
could not tolerate areas of darkness and sought to exercise power 
through the mere fact of things being known and people seen in an 
immediate, collective gaze. 18 What radically differentiates the exercise 
of colonial power is the unsuitability of the enlightenment assumption of 
collectivity and the eye that beholds it. For Jeremy Bentham (as Michel 
Perrot points out), the small group is representative of the whole society 

- the part is already the whole." Colonial authority requires modes of 
discrimination (cultural, racial, administrative . . .) that disallow a stable 
unitary assumption of collectivity. The 'part' (which must be the col- 
onialist foreign body) must be representative of the 'whole' (conquered 
country), but the right of representation is based on its radical difference. 
Such doublethink is made viable only through the strategy of disavowal 
just described, which requires a theory of the 'hybridization' of discourse 
and power that is ignored by theorists who engage in the battle for 
'power' but do so only as the purists of difference. 

The discriminatory effects of the discourse of cultural colonialism, for 
instance, do not simply or singly refer to a 'person', or a dialectical 
power struggle between self and other, or to a discrimination between 
mother culture and alien cultures. Produced through the strategy of 
disavowal, the reference of discrimination is always to a process of split- 
ting as the condition of subjection: a discrimination between the mother 
culture and its bastards, the self and its doubles, where the trace of 
what is disavowed is not repressed but repeated as something different 

- a mutation, a hybrid. It is such a partial and double force that is more 
than the mimetic but less than the symbolic, that disturbs the visibility 
of the colonial presence and makes the recognition of its authority 
problematic. To be authoritative, its rules of recognition must reflect 
consensual knowledge or opinion; to be powerful, these rules of recog- 
nition must be reached in order to represent the exorbitant objects of 
discrimination that lie beyond its purview. Consequently, if the unitary 
(and essentialist) reference to race, nation or cultural tradition is essential 
to preserve the presence of authority as an immediate mimetic effect, 
such essentialism must be exceeded in the articulation of 



'differentiatory', discriminatory identities. (For a related argument see 
the description of the pedagogical and the performative in Chapter 8.) 

To demonstrate such an 'excess' is not merely to celebrate the joyous 
power of the signifier. Hybridity is the sign of the productivity of 
colonial power, its shifting forces and fixities; it is the name for the 
strategic reversal of the process of domination through disavowal (that 
is, the production of discriminatory identities that secure the 'pure' 
and original identity of authority). Hybridity is the revaluation of the 
assumption of colonial identity through the repetition of discriminatory 
identity effects. It displays the necessary deformation and displacement 
of all sites of discrimination and domination. It unsettles the mimetic 
or narcissistic demands of colonial power but reimplicates its identifi- 
cations in strategies of subversion that turn the gaze of the discriminated 
back upon the eye of power. For the colonial hybrid is the articulation 
of the ambivalent space where the rite of power is enacted on the 
site of desire, making its objects at once disciplinary and disseminatory 
- or, in my mixed metaphor, a negative transparency. 

If discriminatory effects enable the authorities to keep an eye on them, 
their proliferating difference evades that eye, escapes that surveillance. 
Those discriminated against may be instantly recognized, but they also 
force a re-cognition of the immediacy and articulacy of authority - a 
disturbing effect that is familiar in the repeated hesitancy afflicting the 
colonialist discourse when it contemplates its discriminated subjects: 
the inscrutability of the Chinese, the unspeakable rites of the Indians, the 
indescribable habits of the Hottentots. It is not that the voice of authority 
is at a loss for words. It is, rather, that the colonial discourse has reached 
that point when, faced with the hybridity of its objects, the presence of 
power is revealed as something other than what its rules of recognition 

If the effect of colonial power is seen to be the production of hybridiz- 
ation rather than the noisy command of colonialist authority or the silent 
repression of native traditions, then an important change of perspective 
occurs. The ambivalence at the source of traditional discourses on 
authority enables a form of subversion, founded on the undecidability 
that turns the discursive conditions of dominance into the grounds 
of intervention. It is traditional academic wisdom that the presence of 
authority is properly established through the non-exercise of private 
judgement and the exclusion of reasons in conflict with the authoritative 
reason. The recognition of authority, however, requires a validation of 
its source that must be immediately, even intuitively, apparent - 'You 
have that in your countenance which I would fain call master' - and 
held in common (rules of recognition). What is left unacknowledged is 
the paradox of such a demand for proof and the resulting ambivalence 
for positions of authority. If, as Steven Lukes rightly says, the acceptance 



of authority excludes an evaluation of the content of an utterance, and 
if its source, which must be acknowledged, disavows both conflicting 
reasons and personal judgement, then can the 'signs' or 'marks' of 
authority be anything more than 'empty' presences of strategic devices? 20 
Need they be any the less effective because of that? Not less effective 
but effective in a different form, would be our answer. 

Tom Nairn reveals a basic ambivalence between the symbols of Eng- 
lish imperialism which would not help 'looking universal' and a 'hol- 
lowness [that] sounds through the English imperialist mind in a 
thousand forms: in Rider Haggard's necrophilia, in Kipling's moments 
of gloomy doubt, ... in the gloomy cosmic truth of Forster's Marabar 
caves'. 21 Nairn explains this 'imperial delirium' as the disproportion 
between the grandiose rhetoric of English imperialism and the reed 
economic and political situation of late Victorian England I would like 
to suggest that these crucial moments in English literature are not simply 
crises of England's own making. They are also the signs of a discontinu- 
ous history, an estrangement of the English book They mark the disturb- 
ance of its authoritative representations by the uncanny forces of race, 
sexuality, violence, cultural and even climatic differences which emerge 
in the colonial discourse as the mixed and split texts of hybridity. If the 
appearance of the English book is read as a production of colonial 
hybridity, then it no longer simply commands authority. It gives rise to 
a series of questions of authority that, in my bastardized repetition, must 
sound strangely familiar: 

Was it a badge - an ornament - a charm - a propitiatory act? Was 
there any idea at all connected with it? It looked startling in this 
black neck of the woods, this bit of white writing from beyond 
the seas. 

In repeating the scenario of the English book, I hope I have succeeded 
in representing a colonial difference: it is the effect of uncertainty that 
afflicts the discourse of power, an uncertainty that estranges the familiar 
symbol of English 'national' authority and emerges from its colonial 
appropriation as the sign of its difference. Hybridity is the name of this 
displacement of value from symbol to sign that causes the dominant 
discourse to split along the axis of its power to be representative, auth- 
oritative. Hybridity represents that ambivalent 'turn' of the discrimi- 
nated subject into the terrifying, exorbitant object of paranoid 
classification - a disturbing questioning of the images and presences of 

To grasp the ambivalence of hybridity, it must be distinguished from 
an inversion that would suggest that the originary is, really, only an 
'effect'. Hybridity has no such perspective of depth or truth to provide: 
it is not a third term that resolves the tension between two cultures, or 



the two scenes of the book, in a dialectical play of 'recognition'. The 
displacement from symbol to sign creates a crisis for any concept of 
authority based on a system of recognition: colonial specularity, doubly 
inscribed, does not produce a mirror where the self apprehends itself; 
it is always the split screen of the self and its doubling, the hybrid. 

These metaphors are very much to the point, because they suggest 
that colonial hybridity is not a problem of genealogy or identity between 
two different cultures which can then be resolved as an issue of cultural 
relativism. Hybridity is a problematic of colonial representation and 
individuation that reverses the effects of the colonialist disavowal, so 
that other 'denied' knowledges enter upon the dominant discourse and 
estrange the basis of its authority - its rules of recognition. Again, it 
must be stressed, it is not simply the content of disavowed knowledges 

- be they forms of cultural otherness or traditions of colonialist treachery 

- that return to be acknowledged as counter-authorities. For the resol- 
ution of conflicts between authorities, civil discourse always maintains 
an adjudicative procedure. What is irremediably estranging in the pres- 
ence of the hybrid - in the revaluation of the symbol of national author- 
ity as the sign of colonial difference - is that the difference of cultures 
can no longer be identified or evaluated as objects of epistemological 
or moral contemplation: cultural differences are not simply there to be 
seen or appropriated. 

Hybridity reverses the formal process of disavowal so that the violent 
dislocation of the act of colonization becomes the conditionality of col- 
onial discourse. The presence of colonialist authority is no longer 
immediately visible; its discriminatory identifications no longer have 
their authoritative reference to this culture's cannibalism or that people's 
perfidy. As an articulation of displacement and dislocation, it is now 
possible to identify 'the cultural' as a disposal of power, a negative 
transparency that comes to be agonistically constructed on the boundary 
between frame of reference /frame of mind. It is crucial to remember 
that the colonial construction of the cultural (the site of the civilizing 
mission) through the process of disavowal is authoritative to the extent 
to which it is structured around the ambivalence of splitting, denial, 
repetition - strategies of defence that mobilize culture as an open- 
textured, warlike strategy whose aim 'is rather a continued agony than 
a total disappearance of the pre-existing culture'. 22 

To see the cultural not as the source of conflict - different cultures - 
but as the effect of discriminatory practices - the production of cultural 
differentiation as signs of authority - changes its value and its rules of 
recognition. Hybridity intervenes in the exercise of authority not merely 
to indicate the impossibility of its identity but to represent the unpre- 
dictability of its presence. The book retains its presence, but it is no 
longer a representation of an essence; it is now a partial presence, a 



(strategic) device in a specific colonial engagement, an appurtenance of 

This partializing process of hybridity is best described as a metonymy 
of presence. It shares Sigmund Freud's valuable insight into the strat- 
egy of disavowal as the persistence of the narcissistic demand in the 
acknowledgement of difference. 23 This, however, exacts a price, for 
the existence of two contradictory knowledges (multiple beliefs) splits 
the ego (or the discourse) into two psychical attitudes, and forms of 
knowledge, towards the external world. The first of these takes reality 
into consideration while the second replaces it with a product of desire. 
What is remarkable is that these two contradictory objectives always 
represent a 'partiality' in the construction of the fetish object, at once a 
substitute for the phallus and a mark of its absence. There is an import- 
ant difference between fetishism and hybridity. The fetish reacts to the 
change in the value of the phallus by fixing on an object prior to 
the perception of difference, an object that can metaphorically substitute 
for its presence while registering the difference. So long as it fulfils the 
fetishistic ritual, the object can look like anything (or nothing!). 

The hybrid object, on the other hand, retains the actual semblance of 
the authoritative symbol but revalues its presence by resisting it as the 
signifier of Entstellung - after the intervention of difference. It is the power 
of this strange metonymy of presence to so disturb the systematic (and 
systemic) construction of discriminatory knowledges that the cultural, 
once recognized as the medium of authority, becomes virtually unrecog- 
nizable. Culture, as a colonial space of intervention and agonism, as the 
trace of the displacement of symbol to sign, can be transformed by 
the unpredictable and partial desire of hybridity. Deprived of their full 
presence, the knowledges of cultural authority may be articulated with 
forms of 'native' knowledges or faced with those discriminated subjects 
that they must rule but can no longer represent. This may lead, as in 
the case of the natives outside Delhi, to questions of authority that the 
authorities - the Bible included - cannot answer. Such a process is not 
the deconstruction of a cultural system from the margins of its own 
aporia nor, as in Derrida's 'Double session', the mime that haunts 
mimesis. The display of hybridity - its peculiar 'replication' - terrorizes 
authority with the ruse of recognition, its mimicry, its mockery. 

Such a reading of the hybridity of colonial authority profoundly 
unsettles the demand that figures at the centre of the originary myth of 
colonialist power. It is the demand that the space it occupies be 
unbounded, its reality coincident with the emergence of an imperialist 
narrative and history, its discourse non-dialogic, its enunciation unitary, 
unmarked by the trace of difference. It is a demand that is recognizable 
in a range of justificatory Western 'civil' discourses where the presence 
of the 'colony' often alienates its own language of liberty and reveals 



its universalist concepts of labour and property as particular, post- 
Enlightenment ideological and technological practices. Consider, for 
example: Locke's notion of the wasteland of Carolina - Thus in the 
beginning all the World was America'; Montesquieu's emblem of the 
wasteful and disorderly life and labour in despotic societies - 'When 
the savages of Louisiana are desirous of fruit, they cut the tree to the 
root, and gather the fruit'; Grant's belief in the impossibility of law and 
history in Muslim and Hindu India - 'where treasons and revolutions 
are continual; by which the insolent and abject frequently change places'; 
or the contemporary Zionist myth of the neglect of Palestine - 'of a 
whole territory', Said writes, 'essentially unused, unappreciated, misun- 
derstood . . . to be made useful, appreciated, understandable'. 24 

The voice of command is interrupted by questions that arise from 
these heterogeneous sites and circuits of power which, though momen- 
tarily 'fixed' in the authoritative alignment of subjects, must continually 
be re-presented in the production of terror or fear. The paranoid threat 
from the hybrid is finally uncontainable because it breaks down the 
symmetry and duality of self/other, inside/outside. In the productivity 
of power, the boundaries of authority - its reality effects - are always 
besieged by 'the other scene' of fixations and phantoms. 

We can now understand the link between the psychic and political 
that is suggested in Frantz Fanon's figure of speech: the colonialist is 
an exhibitionist, because his preoccupation with security makes him 
'remind the native out loud that there he alone is master'. 25 The native, 
caught in the chains of colonialist command, achieves a 'pseudo-petrifi- 
cation' which further incites and excites him, thus making the settler-n- 
ative boundary an anxious and ambivalent one. What then presents 
itself as the subject of authority in the discourse of colonial power is, 
in fact, a desire that so exceeds the original authority of the book and 
the immediate visibility of its metaphoric writing that we are bound to 
ask: what does colonial power want? My answer is only partially in 
agreement with Lacan's vel or Derrida's veil. For the desire of colonial 
discourse is a splitting of hybridity that is less than one and double; and 
if that sounds enigmatic, it is because its explanation has to wait upon 
the authority of those canny questions that the natives put, so insistently, 
to the English book. 

The native questions quite literally turn the origin of the book into 
an enigma. First: how can the word of God come from the flesh-eating 
mouths of the English? - a question that faces the unitary and universalist 
assumption of authority with the cultural difference of its historical 
moment of enunciation. And later: how can it be the European Book, when 
we believe that it is God's gift to us? He sent it to us at Hurdwar. This is 
not merely an illustration of what Foucault would call the capillary 
effects of the microtechnics of power. It reveals the penetrative power 



- both psychic and social - of the technology of the printed word in early 
nineteenth-century rural India. Imagine the scene: the Bible, perhaps 
translated into a north Indian dialect like Brigbhasha, handed out free 
or for one rupee within a culture where usually only caste Hindus 
would possess a copy of the Scriptures, received in awe by the natives 
as both a novelty and a household deity. Contemporary missionary 
records reveal that, in Middle India alone, by 1815 we could have 
witnessed the spectacle of the Gospel 'doing its own work', as the 
Evangelicals put it, in at least eight languages and dialects, with a 
first edition of between one thousand and ten thousand copies in each 
translation. 26 It is the force of these colonialist practices that produce 
that discursive tension between Anund Messeh, whose address assumes 
its authority, and the natives who question the English presence, reveal- 
ing the hybridity of authority and inserting their insurgent interrog- 
ations in the interstices. 

The subversive character of the native questions will be realized only 
once we recognize the strategic disavowal of cultural/ historical differ- 
ence in Anund Messeh's Evangelical discourse. Having introduced the 
presence of the English and their intercession - 'God gave [the Book] long 
ago to the Sahibs, and THEY sent it to us' - he then disavows that 
political /linguistic 'imposition' by attributing the intervention of the 
Church to the power of God and the received authority of chapter and 
verse. What is being disavowed is not entirely visible in Anund Messeh's 
contradictory statements, at the level of the 'enounced'. What he, as 
well as the English Bible-in-disguise, must conceal are their particular 
enunciatory conditions - that is, the design of the Burdwan Plan to 
deploy 'natives' to destroy native culture and religion. This is done 
through the repeated production of a teleological narrative of Evangeli- 
cal witness: eager conversions, bereft Brahmins, and Christian gather- 
ings. The descent from God to the English is both linear and circular: 
'This WORD is of God, and not of men; and when HE makes your 
hearts to understand, then you will PROPERLY comprehend it.' 

The historical 'evidence' of Christianity is plain for all to see, Evangel- 
ists would have argued, with the help of William Paley's Evidences of 
Christianity (1791), the most influential missionary manual throughout 
the nineteenth century. The miraculous authority of colonial Christianity, 
they would have held, lies precisely in its being both English and 
universal, empirical and uncanny, for 'ought we not rather to expect 
that such a Being on occasions of peculiar importance, may interrupt 
the order which he had appointed?' 27 The Word, no less theocratic than 
logocentric, would have certainly borne absolute witness to the gospel 
of Hurdwar had it not been for the rather tasteless fact that most Hindus 
were vegetarian! 

By taking their stand on the grounds of dietary law, the natives resist 



the miraculous equivalence of God and the English. They introduce the 
practice of colonial cultural differentiation as an indispensable enunciat- 
ive function in the discourse of authority - a function Foucault describes 
as linked to 

a 'referential' that . . . forms the place, the condition, the field of 
emergence, the authority to differentiate between individuals or 
objects, states of things and relations that are brought into play by 
the statement itself; it defines the possibilities of appearance and 
delimitation. 28 

Through the natives' strange questions, it is possible to see, with histori- 
cal hindsight, what they resisted in questioning the presence of the 
English - as religious mediation and as a cultural and linguistic medium. 
What is the value of English in the offering of the Hindi Bible? It is the 
creation of a print technology calculated to produce a visual effect that 
will not 'look like the work of foreigners'; it is the decision to produce 
simple, abridged tracts of the plainest narrative that may inculcate the 
habit of 'private, solitary reading', as a missionary wrote in 1816, so 
that the natives may resist the Brahmin's 'monopoly of knowledge' and 
lessen their dependence on their own religious and cultural traditions; 
it is the opinion of the Reverend Donald Corrie that 'on learning English 
they acquire ideas quite new, and of the first importance, respecting 
God and his government' (MR, July 1816, p. 193; November 1816, 
pp. 444-5; March 1816, pp. 106-7). It is the shrewd view of an unknown 
native, in 1819: 

For instance, I take a book of yours and read it awhile and whether 
I become a Christian or not, I leave the book in my family: after 
my death, my son, conceiving that I would leave nothing useless 
or bad in my house, will look into the book, understand its con- 
tents, consider that his father left him the book, and become a 

(MR, January 1819, p. 27) 

When the natives demand an Indianized Gospel, they are using the 
powers of hybridity to resist baptism and to put the project of conver- 
sion in an impossible position. Any adaptation of the Bible was forbid- 
den by the evidences of Christianity, for, as the bishop of Calcutta 
preached in his Christmas sermon in 1715: 

I mean that it is a Historical Religion: the History of the whole 
dispensation is before us from the creation of the world to the 
present hour: and it is throughout consistent with itself and with 
the attributes of God. 

(MR, January 1817, p. 31) 



The natives' stipulation that only mass conversion would persuade them 
to take the sacrament touches on a tension between missionary zeal and 
the East India Company Statutes for 1814 which strongly advised against 
such proselytizing. When they make these intercultural, hybrid 
demands, the natives are both challenging the boundaries of discourse 
and subtly changing its terms by setting up another specifically colonial 
space of the negotiations of cultural authority. And they do this under 
the eye of power, through the production of 'partial' knowledges and 
positionalities in keeping with my earlier, more general explanation of 
hybridity. Such objects of knowledges make the signifiers of authority 
enigmatic in a way that is 'less than one and double'. They change 
their conditions of recognition while maintaining their visibility; they 
introduce a lack that is then represented as a doubling of mimicry. This 
mode of discursive disturbance is a sharp practice, rather like that of 
the perfidious barbers in the bazaars of Bombay who do not mug their 
customers with the blunt Lacanian vel, 'Your money or your life', leaving 
them with nothing. No, these wily oriental thieves, with far greater skill, 
pick their clients' pockets and cry out, 'How the master's face shines!' 
and then, in a whisper, 'But he's lost his mettle!' 

And this traveller's tale, told by a native, is an emblem of that form 
of splitting - less than one and double - that I have suggested for the 
reading of the ambivalence of colonial cultural texts. In estranging 
the word of God from the English medium, the natives questions con- 
test the logical order of the discourse of authority - 'These books . . . 
teach the religion of the European Sahibs. It is THEIR book; and they 
printed it in our language, for our use.' The natives expel the copula, 
or middle term, of the Evangelical 'power - knowledge' equation, which 
then disarticulates the structure of the God-Englishman equivalence. 
Such a crisis in the positionality and propositionality of colonialist 
authority destabilizes the sign of authority. The Bible is now ready for 
a specific colonial appropriation. On the one hand, its paradigmatic 
presence as the Word of God is assiduously preserved: it is only to the 
direct quotations from the Bible that the natives give their unquestioning 
approval - True!' The expulsion of the copula, however, empties the 
presence of its syntagmatic supports - codes, connotations and cultural 
associations that give it contiguity and continuity - that make its pres- 
ence culturally and politically authoritative. 

In this sense, then, it may be said that the presence of the book has 
acceded to the logic of the signifier and has been 'separated', in Lacan's 
use of the term, from 'itself. If, on one side, its authority, or some 
symbol or meaning of it, is maintained - willy-nilly, less than one - then, 
on the other, it fades. It is at the point of its fading that the metonymy 
of presence gets caught up in an alienating strategy of doubling or 
repetition. Doubling repeats the fixed and empty presence of authority 



by articulating it syntagmatically with a range of differential knowledges 
and positionalities that both estrange its 'identity' and produce new 
forms of knowledge, new modes of differentiation, new sites of power. 

In the case of the colonial discourse, these syntagmatic appropriations 
of presence confront it with those contradictory and threatening differ- 
ences of its enunciative function that had been disavowed. In their 
repetition, these disavowed knowledges return to make the presence of 
authority uncertain. They may take the form of multiple or contradictory 
belief, as in some forms of native knowledges: 'We are willing to be 
baptized, but we will never take the Sacrament.' Or they may be forms 
of mythic explanation that refuse to acknowledge the agency of the 
Evangelicals: 'An Angel from heaven gave it [the Bible] us, at Hurdwar 
fair.' Or they may be the fetishistic repetition of litany in the face of an 
unanswerable challenge to authority: for instance, Anund Messeh's 'Not 
that which entereth into a man's mouth defileth him, but that which 
cometh out of the mouth.' 

In each of these cases we see a colonial doubling which I have 
described as a strategic displacement of value through a process of the 
metonymy of presence. It is through this partial process, represented in 
its enigmatic, inappropriate signifiers - stereotypes, jokes, multiple and 
contradictory belief, the 'native' Bible - that we begin to get a sense of 
a specific space of cultural colonial discourse. It is a 'separate' space, a 
space of separation - less than one and double - which has been system- 
atically denied by both colonialists and nationalists who have sought 
authority in the authenticity of 'origins'. It is precisely as a separation 
from origins and essences that this colonial space is constructed. It is 
separate, in the sense in which the French psychoanalyst Victor Smirnoff 
describes the separateness of the fetish as a 'separateness that makes 
the fetish easily available, so that the subject can make use of it in his 
own way and establish it in an order of things that frees it from any 
subordination.' 29 

The metonymic strategy produces the signifier of colonial mimicry as 
the affect of hybridity - at once a mode of appropriation and of resis- 
tance, from the disciplined to the desiring. As the discriminated object, 
the metonym of presence becomes the support of an authoritarian voy- 
eurism, all the better to exhibit the eye of power. Then, as discrimination 
turns into the assertion of the hybrid, the insignia of authority becomes 
a mask, a mockery. After our experience of the native interrogation, it 
is difficult to agree entirely with Fanon that the psychic choice is to 
'turn white or disappear.' 30 There is the more ambivalent, third choice: 
camouflage, mimicry, black skins/white masks. Lacan writes: 

Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what 
might be called an itself that is behind. The effect of mimicry is 



camouflage, in the strictly technical sense. It is not a question of 
harmonizing with the background but, against a mottled back- 
ground, of being mottled - exactly like the technique of camouflage 
practised in human warfare. 31 

Read as a masque of mimicry, Anund Messeh's tale emerges as a 
question of colonial authority, an agonistic space. To the extent to which 
discourse is a form of defensive warfare, mimicry marks those moments 
of civil disobedience within the discipline of civility: signs of spectacular 
resistance. Then the words of the master become the site of hybridity - 
the warlike, subaltern sign of the native - then we may not only read 
between the lines but even seek to change the often coercive reality that 
they so lucidly contain. It is with the strange sense of a hybrid history 
that I want to end this chapter. 

Despite Anund Messeh's miraculous evidence, 'native Christians were 
never more than vain phantoms' as J. A. Dubois wrote in 1815, after 
twenty-five years in Madras. Their parlous partial state caused him 
particular anxiety, 

for in embracing the Christian religion they never entirely renounce 
their superstitions towards which they always keep a secret bent 
. . . there is no unfeigned, undisguised Christian among these Indians. 

(MR, November 1816, p. 212) 

And what of the native discourse? Who can tell? 
The Reverend Mr Corrie, the most eminent of the Indian Evangelists, 
warned that 

till they came under the English Government, they have not been 

accustomed to assert the nose upon their face their own This 

temper prevails, more or less, in the converted. 

(MR, March 1816, pp. 106-7) 

Archdeacon Potts, in handing over charge to the Reverend J. R Sperch- 
neider in July 1818, was a good deal more worried: 

If you urge them with their gross and unworthy misconceptions 
of the nature and will of God or the monstrous follies of their 
fabulous theology, they will turn it off with a sly civility perhaps, 
or with a popular and careless proverb. 

(MR, September 1818, p. 375) 

Was it in the spirit of such sly civility that the native Christians 
parried so long with Anund Messeh and then, at the mention of baptism, 
politely excused themselves: 'Now we must go home to the harvest . . . 
perhaps the next year we may come to Meerut.' 

And what is the significance of the Bible? Who knows? 



Three years before the native Christians received the Bible at Hurdwar, 
a schoolmaster named Sandappan wrote from southern India, asking 
for a Bible: 

Rev. Fr. Have mercy upon me. I am amongst so many craving 
beggars for the Holy Scriptures the chief craving beggar. The 
bounty of the bestowers of this treasure is so great I understand, 
that even this book is read in rice and salt-markets. 

(MR, June 1813, pp. 221-2) 

But in 1817, the same year as the miracle outside Delhi, a much-tried 
missionary wrote in some considerable rage: 

Still everyone would gladly receive a Bible. And why? That he 
may store it up as a curiosity; sell it for a few pice; or use it for 

waste paper. . . . Some have been bartered in the markets If 

these remarks are at all warranted then an indiscriminate distri- 
bution of the scriptures, to everyone who may say he wants a 
Bible, can be little less than a waste of time, a waste of money and 
a waste of expectations. For while the public are hearing of so 
many Bibles distributed, they expect to hear soon of a corres- 
pondent number of conversions. 

(MR, May 1817, p. 186) 



Cultural difference and colonial nonsense 

How can the mind take hold of such a country? Generations of invaders 
have tried, but they remain in exile. The important towns they build are 
only retreats, their quarrels the malaise of men who cannot find their 

way home. India knows of their trouble She calls 'Come' through her 

hundred mouths, through objects ridiculous and august. But come to what? 
She has never defined. She is not a promise, only an appeal. 

E. M. Forster, A Passage to India 1 

The Fact that I have said that the effect of interpretation is to isolate in the 
subject a kernel, a kem to use Freud's own term, of non-sense, does not 
mean that interpretation is in itself nonsense. 

Jacques Lacan, 'The field of the other' 2 


There is a conspiracy of silence around the colonial truth, whatever that 
might be. Around the turn of the century there emerges a mythic, 
masterful silence in the narratives of empire, what Sir Alfred Lyall called 
'doing our Imperialism quietly', Carlyle celebrated as the 'wisdom of 
the Do-able - Behold ineloquent Brindley ... he has chained the seas 
together/ and Kipling embodied, most eloquently, in the figure of Cecil 
Rhodes - 'Nations not words he linked to prove/His faith before the 
crowd.' 3 Around the same time, from those dark comers of the earth, 
there comes another, more ominous silence that utters an archaic colonial 
'otherness', that speaks in riddles, obliterating proper names and proper 
places. It is a silence that turns imperial triumphalism into the testimony 
o£^alonial confusion and those who hear its echo lose their historic 
memories. This is the Voice of early modernist 'colo nial' literature , the 
complex cultural memory of which is made in a fine tension between 
the.jtielanch.olic homelessness of the modern novelist, and the wisdom 
of the sage-like storyteller whose craft takes him no further afield than 
his own people. 4 In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Marlow seeks Kurtz's 
Voice, his words, 'a stream of light or the deceitful flow from the heart 



of an impenetrable darkness' and in that search he loses 'what is in the 
work - the chance to find yourself '. 5 He is left with those two unwork- 
able words, 'the Horror, the Horror!' Nostromo embarks on the most 
desperate mission of his life with the silver tied for safety around his 
neck 'so that it sha 1 be ta ked about when the litt e children are grown 
up and the grown men are old', only to be betrayed and berated in the 
si ence of the Great Isabel, mocked in the owl's deathcall 'Ya-acabo! Ya- 
acabo! it is finished, it is finished.' 6 And Aziz, in A Passage to India, who 
embarks jauntily, though no less desperately, on his Anglo-Indian picnic 
to the Marabar caves is cruelly undone by the echo of the Kawa Dol: 
'Bourn, ouboum is the sound as far as the human alphabet can express 
it ... if one spoke silences in that place or quoted lofty poetry, the 
comment would have been the same ou-boum.' 7 

As one silence uncannily repeats the other, the sign of identity and 
rea ity found in the work of e mpire is slowly undone. 1 3rtc~5tokes. in 
The Political Ideas of English Imperialism, 8 describes the mission of work 
- that medium of recognition for the colonial subject - as a distinctive 
feature of the imperialist mind which, from the early nineteenth century, 
effected 'the transference of religious emotion to secular purposes'. But 
this transference of affect and object is never achieved without a disturb- 
ance, a displacement in the representation of empire's work itself. Mar- 
low's compulsive search for those famous rivets, to get on with the 
work, to stop the hold, gives way to the compulsive quest for the Voice, 
the words that are half-lost, lied about, repeated. Kurtz is just a word, 
not the man with the name; Marlow is just a name, lost m ffi^naWaHve 
game, in the 'terrific suggestiveness of words heard in dreams, of 
phrases spoken in nightmares'. 9 

J&haLemeigesJfrom thedispersal of work is the language of a colonial 
nonsense that displaces those dualities in which the colonial space is 
traditionally divided : nature /culture, chaos/civi ity. Ouboum or the 
owl's deathcall - the horror of these words! - are not naturalized or 
primitivistic descriptions of colonial 'otherness', j they are Jheinscriptions 
of _an uncertain colonial si ence that mocks the social performance of 
language with their non-sense; that baffles the communicable verities 
of culture with. their. refusal tpjranslate. These hybrid signifiers are the 
intimations of colonial otherness that Forster describes so well in 
the beckoning of India to the conquerors: 'She calls "Come" . . . But 
come to what? She has never defined. She is not a promise, only an 
appeal.' 10 It is from such an uncertain invitation to interpret, from such 
a question of desire, that the echo of another significant question can 
be dimly heard, Lacan's question of the alienation of the subject in the 
Other: 'He is saying this to me, but what does he want?' 11 

'Yacabo! Yacabo! It is finished . . . finished': these words stand not for 
the plenitudinous place of cultural diversity, but at the point of culture's 



'fading'. They display the alienation between the transformational myth 
of culture as a language of universality and social generalization, and 
its tropic function as a repeated 'translation' of incommensurable levels 
of living and meaning. The articulation of nonsense is the recognition of 
an anxious contradictory place between the human and the not-human, 
between sense and non-sense. In that sense, these 'senseless' signifiers 
pose the question of cultural choice in terms similar to the Lacanian vel, 
between being and meaning, between the subject and the other, 'neither 
the one nor the other'. Neither, in our terms, 'work' nor 'word' but 
precisely the work of the colonial word that leaves, for instance, the 
surface of Nostromo strewn with the detritus of silver - a fetish, Emilia 
calls it; an evil omen, in Nostromo's words; and Gould is forever silent. 
Bits and pieces of silver recount the tale that never quite adds up either 
to the narcissistic, dynastic dream of imperial democracy, or to Captain 
Mitchell's banal demand for a narrative of 'historical events'. 

The work of, the word impedes the, question of the transparent assimi- 
lation of cross-cultural meanings in a unitary sign of liuman' culture. 
m^eTween culture, at the point of its articulation of identity or cEsfihc- 
trveness, comes u^questiorrof ^igiulicltidSTh^ 
efTaff^age; it is the question of culture's representation of difference - 
manners, words, , rjtuals r customs, time - inscribed without a transcendent 
s^ecLtnat Joiows, outside of a mimetic social memory, and 
across the - ouboum - kernel of non-sense. What becomes of cultural 
identity, the ability to put the right word in the right place at the right 
time, when it crosses the colonial non-sense? 

Such a question impedes the language of relativism in which cultural 
difference is usually disposed of as a kind of ethical naturalism, a matter 
of cultural diversity. 'A fully individual culture is at best a rare thing,' 
Bernard Williams writes in his interesting work Ethics and the Limits of 
Philosophy. 12 Yet, he argues, the very structure of ethical thought seeks 
to apply its principles to the whole world. His concept of a 'relativism 
of_distance', which is underwritten by an epistemological view, of society 
as a. given whole, seeks to inscribe the totality of other cultures in a 
realist and concrete narrative that must beware, he warns, the fantasy 
ofjjrojection. Surely, however, the very project of ethical naturalism or 
^tui^relativisin. is spurred precisely by. the 'r epeat^'^Fuieaf "oTtte 
loss ol a !ieleologically significant world', and it is the compensation of 
that loss in projection or introjection which then becomes the basis of 
its ethical judgement. From the margins of his text, Williams asks, in 
parenthesis, a question not dissimilar to Forster's India question or 
Lacan's question of the subject; 'What is this talk of projection [in the 
midst of naturalism] really saying? What is the screen?' He makes no 

The problematic enunciation of cultural difference becomes, in the 



discourse of relativism, the perspectival problem of temporal and spatial 
distance. The threatened 'loss' of meaningf ulness in cross-cultural inter- 
pretation, which is as much a problem of the structure of the signifier 
as it is a question of cultural codes (the experience of other cultures), then 
becomes a hermeneutic project for the restoration of cultural 'essence' or 
authenticity. The issue of interpretation in colonial cultural discourse is 
not, however, an epistemological problem that emerges because colonial 
objects appear before (in both senses) the eye of the subject in a bewilder- 
ing diversity. Nor is it simply a quarrel between preconstituted holistic 
cultures, that contain within themselves the codes by which they can 
legitimately be read. The question of cultural difference as I want to 
cast it, is not what Adela Quested quaintly identified as an 'Anglo- 
Indian difficulty', a problem caused by cultural plurality. And to which, 
in her view, the only response could be the sublation of cultural differen- 
tiation in an ethical universalism: 'That's why I want Akbar's "universal 
religion" or the equivalent to keep me decent and sensible.' 13 Cultural 
difference, as Adela experienced it, in the nonsense of the Marabar 
caves, is not the acquisition or accumulation of additional cultural 
knowledge; it is the momentous, if momentary, extinction of the recog- 
nizable object of culture in the disturbed artifice of its signification, at 
the edge of experience. 

What happened in the Marabar caves? There, the loss of the narrative 
of cultural plurality; there the implausibility of conversation and com- 
mensurability; there the enactment of an undecidable, uncanny colonial 
present, an Anglo-Indian difficulty, which repeats but is never itself 
fully represented: 'Come . . . But come to what?'; remember India's 
invocation. Aziz is uncurably inaccurate about the events, because he is 
sensitive, because Adela's question about polygamy has to be put from 
his mind. Adela, obsessively trying to think the incident out, somatizes 
the experience in repeated, hysterical narratives. Her body, Sebatian-like, 
is covered in colonies of cactus spines, and her mind which attempts to 
disavow the body - hers, his - returns to it obsessively: 'Now, everything 

transferred to the surface of my body He never actually touched me 

once. ... It all seems such nonsense ... a sort of shadow.' It is the 
echochamber of memory: 

'What a handsome little oriental . . . beauty, thick hair, a fine skin 
. . . there was nothing of the vagrant in her blood ... he might 
attract women of his own race and rank: Have you one wife or 
many? . . . Damn the English even at their best,' he says ... 'I 
remember, remember scratching the wall with my finger-nail to 
start the echo . . .' she says. . . . And then the echo . . . 'Ouboum'. 14 

In this performance of the text, I have attempted to articulate the 
enunciatory disorder of the colonial present, the writing of cultural 



difference. It lies in the staging of the colonial signifier in the narrative 
uncertainty of culture's in-between: between sign and signifier, neither 
one nor the other, neither sexuality nor race, neither, simply, memory 
nor desire. The articulated opening in-between that I am attempting to 
describe, is well brought out in Derrida's placing or spacing of the 
hymen. In the context of the strange play of cultural memory and 
colonial desire in the Marabar caves, Derrida's words are uncannily 

It is neither desire nor pleasure but between the two. Neither 
future nor present, but between the two. It is the hymen that desire 
dreams of piercing, of bursting in an act of violence that is (at the 
same time or somewhere between) love and murder. If either one 

did take place, there would be no hymen It is an operation 

that both sows confusion between opposites and stands between the 
opposites 'at once'. 15 

It is an undecidability that arises from a certain culturalist substitution 
that Derrida describes as anti-ethnocentrism thinking itself as ethnocen- 
trism while 'silently imposing its standard concepts of speech and 
writing.' 16 


In the epistemological language of cultural description, the object of 
culture comes to be inscribed in a process that Richard Rorty describes 
as that confusion between justification and explanation, the priority of 
knowledge 'of over knowledge 'that': the priority of the visual relation 
between persons and objects above the justificatory, textual 
relationship between propositions. It is precisely such a priority of eye 
over inscription, or Voice over writing, that insists on the 'image' of 
knowledge as confrontation between the self and the object of belief 
seen through the mirror of Nature. Such an epistemological visibility 
disavows the metonymy of the colonial moment, because its narrative 
of ambivalent, hybrid, cultural knowledges - neither 'one' nor 'other' - 
is ethnocentrically elided in the search for cultural commensurability, as 
Rorty describes it: 'to be rational is to find the proper set of terms into 
which all contributions should be translated if agreement is to become 
possible.' 17 And such agreement leads inevitably to a transparency of 
culture that must be thought outside of the signification of difference; 
what Ernest Gellner has simplistically resolved in his recent work on 
relativism, as the diversity of man in a unitary world. A world which, 
if read as 'word' in the following passage, illustrates the impossibility 
of signifying, within its evaluative language, the values of anteriority 
and alterity that haunt the colonial non-sense. 



Gellner writes: 

Assume the regularity of nature, the systematic nature of the 
world, not because it is demonstrable, but because anything which 
eludes such a principle also eludes real knowledge; if cumulative 
and communicable knowledge is to be possible at all, then the 
principle of orderliness must apply to it. . . . Unsymmetrical, idio- 
syncratic explanations are worthless - they are not explanations. 18 

It is the horizon of holism, towards which cultural authority aspires, 
that is made ambivalent in the colonial signifier. To put it succinctly, it 
turns the dialectical 'between' of culture's disciplinary structure - 
between unconscious and conscious motives, between indigenous categor- 
ies and conscious rationalizations, between little acts and grand tra- 
ditions, in James Boon's 19 words - into something closer to Derrida's 
'entre', that sows confusion between opposites and stands between the 
oppositions at once. The colonial signifier - neither one nor other - is, 
however, an act of ambivalent signification, literally splitting the differ- 
ence between the binary oppositions or polarities through which we 
think cultural difference. It is in the enunciatory act of splitting that the 
colonial signifier creates its strategies of differentiation that produce an 
undecidability between contraries or oppositions. 

Marshall Sahlins's 'symbolic synapses' 20 produce homologous differ- 
entiations in the conjunction of oppositions from different cultural 
planes. James Boon's cultural operators produce the Traviata effect - 
when Amato del Passato turns into the sublime duet Grandio - as a 
moment that recalls, in his words, the genesis of signification. It is 
a moment that matches the right phones to the language system, produc- 
ing from different orders or oppositions a burst of cross-referencing 
significance in the 'on-going' cultural performance. In both these influ- 
ential theories of the culture-concept, cultural generalizability is effective 
to the extent to which differentiation is homologous, the genesis of 
signification recalled in the performance of cross-referencing. 

What I have suggested above, for the colonial cultural signifier, is 
precisely the radical loss of such a homologous or dialectical assemblage 
of part and whole, metaphor and metonymy. Instead of cross-referencing 
there is an effective, productive cross-cutting across sites of social sig- 
nificance, that erases the dialectical, disciplinary sense of cultural refer- 
ence and relevance. It is in this sense that the culturally unassimilable 
words and scenes of nonsense, with which I started - the Horror, the 
Horror, the owl's deathcall, the Marabar caves - suture the colonial text 
in a hybrid time and truth that survives and subverts the generalizations 
of literature and history. It is to the ambivalence of the on-going colonial 
present, and its contradictory articulations of power and cultural knowl- 
edge, that I now want to turn. 




The enunciatory ambivalence of colonial culture cannot, of course, be 
derived directly from the 'temporal pulsation' of the signifier; the rule 
of empire must not be allegorized in the misrule of writing. There is, 
however, a mode of enunciation that echoes through the annals of 
nineteenth-century Indian colonial history where a strange discursive 
figure of undecidability arises within cultural authority, between the 
knowledge of culture and the custom of power. It is a negation of 
the Traviata moment; it is a moment when the impossibility of 
naming the difference of colonial culture alienates, in its very form 
of articulation, the colonialist cultural ideals of progress, piety, ration- 
ality and order. 

It is heard in the central paradox of missionary education and conver- 
sation, in Alexander Duff's monumental India and India Missions (1839): 
'Do not send men of compassion here for you will soon break their 
hearts; do send men of compassion here, where millions perish for lack 
of knowledge.' 21 It can be heard in the aporetic moment of Sir Henry 
Maine's Rede Lecture (1875) and is repeated again in his contribution 
to Humphry Ward's definitive commemorative volume on the reign of 
Queen Victoria: 

As has been truly said, the British rulers of India are like men 
bound to keep true time in two longitudes at once. Nevertheless, 
the paradoxical position must be accepted in the most extra- 
ordinary experiment, the British Government of India, the virtually 
despotic government of a dependency by a free people. 22 

The paradox is finally fully exposed in Fitzjames Stephen's important 
essay on 'The foundations of the government of India', in his opposition 
to the Ibert Bill - an opportunity which he uses to attack the utilitarian 
and liberal governance of India. 

A barrel of gunpowder may be harmless or may explode, but you 
cannot educate it into household fuel by exploding little bits of it. 
How can you possibly teach great masses of people that they 
ought to be rather dissatisfied with a foreign ruler, but not much; 
that they should express their discontent in words and in votes, 
but not in acts; that they should ask from him this and that reform 
(which they neither understand nor care for), but should on no 
account rise in insurrection against him. 23 

These statements must not be dismissed as imperialism's doublethink; 
it is, in fact, their desperate acknowledgement of an aporia in the 
inscription of empire that makes them notable. It is their performance 
of a certain uncertain writing in the anomalous discourse of the 



'present' of colonial govemmentality that is of interest to me. And not 
to me alone. For these enunciations represent what I take to be that 
split-second, that ambivalent temporality that demonstrates the turn 
from evolutionism to diffusionism in the culturalist discourse of 
colonial govemmentality; an ambiguity that articulated the otherwise 
opposed policies of the utilitarians and comparativists in the mid- 
nineteenth-century debate on colonial cultural 'progress' and policy. 
According to John Burrow, such an ambivalence was signally representa- 
tive of cultural governance, for, as he writes in Evolution and Society 

when [they] want to emphasise the fact of continuity, the similarity 
between barbaric institutions and those of the European past, or 
even present, they speak in an evolutionary manner. But almost 
equally often they speak in terms of a straight dichotomy: status 
and contract, progressive and non-progressive, barbarous and 
civilized. 24 

In these gnomic, yet crucial, historical utterances, are displayed the 
margins of the disciplinary idea of culture enacted in the colonial scene: 
British/India, Nostromo, ouboum - each cultural naming represents the 
impossibility of cross-cultural identity or symbolic synapses; each time 
there repeats the incompletion of translation. It is such a figure of 
doubt that haunts Henry Maine's naming of India: in his essay on the 
'Observation of India', India is a figure of profound intellectual uncer- 
tainty and governmental ambivalence. 

If India is a reproduction of the common Aryan origin, in Maine's 
discourse it is also a perpetual repetition of that origin as a remnant of 
the past; if that remnant of India is the symbol of an archaic past, it is 
also the signifier of the production of a discursive past-in-the-present; 
if India is the imminent object of classical, theoretical knowledge, India 
is also the sign of its dispersal in the exercise of power; if India is the 
metaphoric equivalence, authorizing the appropriation and naturaliz- 
ation of other cultures, then India is also the repetitive process of meton- 
ymy recognized only in its remnants that are, at once, the signs of 
disturbance and the supports of colonial authority. If India is the origin- 
ary symbol of colonial authority, it is the sign of a dispersal in the 
articulation of authoritative knowledge; if India is a runic reality, India 
is also the ruin of time; if India is the seed of life, India is a monument 
to death. India is the perpetual generation of a past-present which 
is the disturbing, uncertain time of the colonial intervention and the 
ambivalent truth of its enunciation. 

These moments of undecidability must not be seen merely as contra- 
dictions in the idea or ideology of empire. They do not effect a sympto- 
matic repression of domination or desire that will eventually either be 
sublated or will endlessly circulate in the dereliction of an identificatory 



narrative. Such enunciations of culture's colonial difference are closer in 
spirit to what Foucault has sketchily, but suggestively, described as the 
material repeatability of the statement. As I understand the concept - 
and this is my tendentious reconstruction - it is an insistence on the 
surface of emergence as it structures the present of its enunciation: 
the historical caught outside the hermeneutic of historicism; meaning 
grasped not in relation to some un-said or polysemy, but in its pro- 
duction of an authority to differentiate. The meaning of the statement is 
neither symptomatic nor allegorical. It is a status of the subject's author- 
ity, a performative present in which the statement becomes both appro- 
priate and an object of appropriation; repeatable, reasonable, an 
instrument of desire, the elements of a strategy. Such a strategic rep- 
etition at the enunciative level requires neither simply formal analysis 
nor semantic investigation nor verification but, and I quote, 'the analy- 
sis of the relations between the statement and the spaces of differen- 
tiation, in which the statement itself reveals the differences.' 25 
Repeatability, in my terms, is always the repetition in the very act of 
enunciation, something other, a difference that is a little bit uncanny, as 
Foucault comes to define the representability of the statement: 'Perhaps 
it is like the over-familiar that constantly eludes one', he writes, like 
'those famous transparencies which, although they conceal nothing in 
their density, are nevertheless not entirely clear. The enunciative level 
emerges in its very proximity.' 26 

If at first sight the statements by Duff, Maine and Fitzjames Stephen 
are the uncommon commonplaces of colonial or imperial history, then, 
doubly inscribed, their difference emerges quite clearly between-the- 
lines; the temporal in-between of Maine's past-present that will only 
name India as a mode of discursive uncertainty. From the impossibility 
of keeping true time in two longitudes and the inner incompatibility of 
empire and nation in the anomalous discourse of cultural progressivism, 
emerges an ambivalence that is neither the contestation of contradictor- 
ies nor the antagonism of dialectical opposition. In these instances of 
social and discursive alienation there is no recognition of master and 
slave, there is only the matter of the enslaved master, the unmas- 
tered slave. 

What is articulated in the enunciation of the colonial present - in- 
between the lines - is a splitting of the discourse of cultural govem- 
mentality at the moment of its enunciation of authority. It is, according 
to Frantz Fanon, a 'Manichaean' moment that divides the colonial space: 
a Manichaean division, two zones that are opposed but not in the 
service of a 'higher unity'. 27 Fanon's Manichaean metaphors resonate 
with something of the discursive and affective ambivalence that I have 
attributed to the archaic nonsense of colonial cultural articulation, as it 
emerges with its signif icatory edge, to disturb the disciplinary languages 



and logics of the culture-concept itself. 'The symbols of the social - the 
police, the bugle calls in the barracks, military parades and the waving 
flags - are at one and the same time inhibitory and stimulating: "Don't 

dare to budge Get ready to attack".' 28 If Fanon sets the scene of 

splitting around the uncanny and traumatic fetishes of colonial power, 
then Freud, in describing the social circumstances of splitting in his 
essay on 'Fetishism', echoes the political anxiety of my examples of 
colonial nonsense. 'A grown man', Freud writes, 'may experience a 
similar panic when the cry goes up that throne and Altar are in danger, 
and similar illogical consequences will ensue.' 29 

Splitting constitutes an intricate strategy of defence and differentiation 
in the colonial discourse. Two contradictory and independent attitudes 
inhabit the same place, one takes account of reality, the other is under 
the influence of instincts which detach the ego from reality. This results 
in the production of multiple and contradictory belief. The enunciatory 
moment of multiple belief is both a defence against the anxiety of 
difference, and itself productive of differentiations. Splitting is then a 
form of enunciatory, intellectual uncertainty and anxiety that stems from 
the fact that disavowal is not merely a principle of negation or elision; 
it is a strategy for articulating contradictory and coeval statements 
of belief. It is from such an enunciatory space, where the work of 
signification voids the act of meaning in articulating a split-response - 
'Ouboum', 'true time in two longitudes' - that my texts of colonial 
nonsense and imperial aporia have to negotiate their discursive 

Ambivalence, at the point of disavowal (Verleugnung), Freud describes 
as the vicissitude of the idea, as distinct from the vicissitude of affect, 
repression (Verdritngung). It is crucial to understand - and not often 
noted - that the process of disavowal, even as it negates the visibility 
of difference, produces a strategy for the negotiation of the knowl- 
edges of differentiation. These knowledges make sense of the trauma 
and substitute for the absence of visibility. It is precisely such a vicissi- 
tude of the idea of culture in its colonial enunciation, culture articulated 
at the point of its erasure, that makes a non-sense of the disciplinary 
meanings of culture itself. A colonial non-sense, however, that is pro- 
ductive of powerful, if ambivalent, strategies of cultural authority and 

There occurs, then, what we may describe as the 'normalizing' strat- 
egy of discursive splitting, a certain anomalous containment of cultural 
ambivalence. It is visible in Fitzjames Stephen's attack on the undecid- 
ability of liberal and utilitarian colonial governance. What structures his 
statement is the threatening production of uncertainty that haunts the 
discursive subject and taunts the enlightened liberal subject of culture 
itself. But the threat of meaninglessness, the reversion to chaos, is 



required to maintain the vigilance towards Throne and Altar; to reinforce 
the belligerence of British civilization, which if it is to be authoritative, 
Fitzjames Stephen writes, must not shirk from the open, uncompromis- 
ing, straightforward assertion of the anomaly of the British government 
of India. This insoluble anomaly preoccupied enlightened opinion 
throughout the nineteenth century; in Mill's words: 'the government of 
a people by itself has a meaning and a reality; but such a thing as 
government of one people by another does not and cannot exist.' 30 The 
open assertion of the anomalous produces an impossible cultural choice: 
civilization or the threat of chaos - either one or the other - whereas 
the discursive choice continually requires both and the practice of power 
is imaged, anomalously yet again, as 'the virtually despotic government 
of a dependency by a free people' - once more neither one nor the 


If this mistranslation of democratic power repeats the 'anomaly' of 
colonial authority - the colonial space without a proper name - then 
Evangelical pedagogy in the 1830s turns the 'intellectual uncertainty', 
between the Bible and Hinduism, into an anomalous strategy of interpel- 
lation. With the institution of what was termed 'the intellectual system' 
in 1829, in the mission schools of Bengal, there developed a mode of 
instruction which set up - on our model of the splitting of colonial 
discourse - contradictory and independent textualities of Christian piety 
and heathen idolatry in order to elicit, between them, in an uncanny 
doubling, undecidability. It was an uncertainty between truth and false- 
hood whose avowed aim was conversion, but whose discursive and 
political strategy was the production of doubt; not simply a doubt in 
the content of beliefs, but a doubt, or an uncertainty in the native place 
of enunciation; at the point of the colonizer's demand for narrative, at 
the moment of the master's interrogation. This is Duff writing in 1835: 

When asked whether it is not an imperative ordinance of his faith 
that, during the great festival of Ramadan, everyone of the faithful 
should fast from sunrise to sunset - [the Mohammedan] unhesitat- 
ingly, and without qualification, admits that this is a command 
which dare not be broken - an act of contempt against 
Mohammed. . . . You then appeal to the indisputable geographical 
fact that in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, the period from sun- 
rise to sunset annually extends to several months . . . either his 
religion was not designed to be universal, therefore not Divine, or 
he who framed the Koran was unacquainted with the geographical 
fact . . . and therefore an ignorant imposter. So galled does the 



Mohammedan feel . . . that he usually cuts the Gordian Knot by 
boldly denying the geographical fact . . . and many, many are the 
glosses and ingenious subterfuges to which he feels himself 
impelled to resort. 31 

The Brahmans treat with equal contempt, not only the demonstrations 
of modem science but 'the very testimony of their eyes'. The avowed 
aim of this systematic mistranslation, of 'this drawing from the meta- 
physics of the Koran its physical dogmata' is to institutionalize a narra- 
tive of 'verisimilitude of the whole statement' for in Duff's words, 'no 
sooner was the identity of the two sets of phenomena announced as a 
fact, than the truth of the given theory was conceded.' The normalizing 
strategy is, however, a form of subjection that requires precisely the 
anomalous enunciation - the archaic nonsense of the banal misreading 
of mythology as geographical fact - so that, as Duff writes, 'there was 
a sort of silent warfare incessantly maintained . . . self -exploding engines 

that lurked unseen and unsuspected When the wound was once 

inflicted, honourable retreat for the native was impossible.' 32 

The aim is the separation of the heathen soul from the subterfuge of 
its 'subtile system'. The strategy of splitting is the production of a space 
of contradictory and multiple belief, even more sly and subtle, between 
Evangelical verisimilitude and the poetry of the Vedas or the Koran. A 
strategic space of enunciation is produced - neither the one nor the 
other - whose truth is to place the native in that moment of enunciation 
which both Benveniste and Lacan describe, where to say T am lying' is 
strangely to tell the truth or vice versa. Who, in truth, is addressed in 
the verisimilitude of such translation, which must be a mistranslation? In 
that subtle warfare of colonial discourse lurks the fear that in speaking in 
two tongues, language itself becomes doubly inscribed and the intellec- 
tual system uncertain. The colonizer's interrogation becomes anomalous, 
'for every term which the Christian missionary can employ to communi- 
cate divine truth is already appropriated as the chosen symbol of some 
counterpart deadly error.' 33 If the word of the master is already appropri- 
ated and the word of the slave is undecidable, where does the truth of 
colonial nonsense lie? 

Underlying the intellectual uncertainty generated by the anomaly of 
cultural difference is a question of the displacement of truth that is at 
once between and beyond the hybridity of images of governance, or 
the undecidability between codes and texts, or indeed the impossibility 
of Sir Henry Maine's colonial problematic: the attempt to keep true time 
in two longitudes, at once. It is a displacement of truth in the very 
identification of culture, or an uncertainty in the structure of 'culture' 
as the identification of a certain discursive human truth. A truth of the 
human which is culture's home; a truth which 'differentiates' cultures, 



affirms its human significance, the authority of its address. When the 
Mohammedan is forced to deny the logical demonstration of geographi- 
cal fact and the Hindu turns away from the evidence of his eyes, we 
witness a form of ambivalence, a mode of enunciation, a coercion of the 
native subject in which no truth can exist. It is not simply a question of 
the absence of rationality or morality: it leads through such historical 
and philosophical distinctions of cultural differences, to rest in that 
precariously empty discursive space where the question of the human 
capacity of culture lies. To put it a little grandly, the problem now is of 
the question of culture itself as it comes to be represented and contested 
in the colonial imitation - not identity - of man. As before, the question 
occurs in culture's archaic undecidability. 

On the eve of Durgapuja in the mid-1820s, the Reverend Duff walks 
through the quarter of Calcutta where the image-makers are at work. 
A million images of the goddess Durga affront his eyes; a million 
hammers beating brass and tin assault his ears; a million dismembered 
Durgas, eyes, arms, heads, some unpainted, others unformed, assail him 
as he turns to reverie: 

The recollections of the past strangely blend with the visible exhi- 
bitions of the present. The old settled convictions of home experi- 
ence are suddenly counterpoised by the previously unimagined 
scene. To incline [your quivering judgement] in one way or other, 
to determine the 'dubious propendency' you again and again 
watch the movements of those before you. You contemplate their 

form and you cannot doubt that they are men Your wonder is 

vastly increased; but the grounds of your decision have multiplied 
too. 34 

My final argument interrogates, from the colonial perspective, this 
cultural compulsion to 'be, become, or be seen to be human'. 35 It is a 
problem caught in the vacillatory syntax of the entire passage; heard 
finally in the 'cannot' in 'you cannot doubt that they are men.' I will 
suggest that the coercive image of the colonized subject produces a loss 
or lack of truth that articulates an uncanny truth about colonialist cul- 
tural authority and its figurative space of the human. The infinite variety 
of man fades into insignificance when, in the moment of the discursive 
splitting, it oversignifies; it says something beside the point, something 
beside the truth of culture, something abseits. A meaning that is cul- 
turally alien not because it is spoken in many tongues but because the 
colonial compulsion to truth is always an effect of what Derrida has 
called the babelian performance, in the act of translation, as a figurative 
transference of meaning across language systems. I quote from Derrida: 

When God imposes and opposes his name he ruptures the rational 



transparency but interrupts also the . . . linguistic imperialism. He 
destines them to the law of translation both necessary and imposs- 
ible . . . forbidden transparency, impossible univocity. Translation 
becomes law, duty and debt, but the debt one can no longer 
discharge. 36 

It is a performance of truth or the lack of it that, in translation, 
impedes the dialectical process of cultural generality and communic- 
ability. In its stead, where there is the threat of overinterpretation, there 
can be no ethically or epistemologically commensurate subject of culture. 
There is, in fact, the survival across culture of a certain interesting, even 
insurgent, madness that subverts the authority of culture in its 'human' 
form. It will hardly surprise you then, at this juncture, if having 
glimpsed the problem in those dismembered images of the goddess 
Durga, I now turn to that other living doll, Olympia, from Hoffmann's 
77k Sandman, on which Freud bases his essay on 'The "uncanny" ', to 
explicate this strategy of cultural splitting: human /non-human; society/ 

In keeping with our taste for contraries, I suggest that we read the 
fable of the Double uncannily, in-between Freud's analytic distinctions 
between 'intellectual uncertainty' and 'castration', between 'surmount- 
ing' and 'repression'. Such doubts bedevil the essay to the point at 
which Freud half-suggests an analytic distinction between 'repression 
proper' as appropriate to psychical reality, and 'surmounting' - which 
extends the term repression beyond its legitimate meaning - as more 
appropriate to the repressive workings of the cultural unconscious. 37 It 
is through Freud's own 'intellectual uncertainty', at the point of his 
exposition of psychic ambivalence that, I believe, the cultural argument 
of the uncanny double emerges. 

The figure of Olympia stands between the human and the automaton, 
between manners and mechanical reproduction, embodying an aporia: 
a living doll. Through Durga and Olympia, the ghostly magical spirit 
of the double embraces, at one time or another, my entire colonial 
concert party: Marlow, Kurtz, Adela, Aziz, Nostromo, Duff, Maine, the 
owl, the Marabar caves, Derrida, Foucault, Freud, master and slave 
alike. All these comedians of culture's 'non-sense' have stood, for a 
brief moment, in that undecidable enunciatory space where culture's 
authority is undone in colonial power - they have taught culture's 
double lesson. For the uncanny lesson of the double, as a problem 
of intellectual uncertainty, lies precisely in its double-inscription. The 
authority of culture, in the modem episteme, requires at once imitation 
and identification. Culture is heimlich, with its disciplinary generaliza- 
tions, its mimetic narratives, its homologous empty time, its seriality, 
its progress, its customs and coherence. But cultural authority is also 



\a\heimlich, for to be distinctive, significatory, influential and identifiable, 
it has to be translated, disseminated, differentiated, interdisciplinary, 
intertextual, international, inter-racial. 

In-between these two plays the time of a colonial paradox in those 
contradictory statements of subordinate power. For the repetition of the 
'same' can in fact be its own displacement, can turn the authority of 
culture into its own non-sense precisely in its moment of enunciation. 
For, in the psychoanalytic sense, to 'imitate' is to cling to the denial of 
the ego's limitations; to 'identify' is to assimilate conflictually. It is from 
between them, where the letter of the law will not be assigned as a 
sign, that culture's double returns uncannily - neither the one nor the 
other, but the imposter - to mock and mimic, to lose the sense of 
the masterful self and its social sovereignty. It is at this moment 
of intellectual and psychic 'uncertainty' that representation can no longer 
guarantee the authority of culture; and culture can no longer guarantee 
to author its 'human' subjects as the signs of humanness. Freud neglec- 
ted the cultural uncanny but Hoffmann was far more canny. 

If I started with colonial nonsense, I want to end with metropolitan 
bourgeois burlesque. I quote from Hoffmann's 77k Sandman, a passage 
Freud failed to note. 

The history of the automaton had sunk deeply into their souls, 
and an absurd mistrust of human figures began to prevail. Several 
lovers, in order to be fully convinced that they were not paying 
court to a wooden puppet required that their mistress should sing 
and dance a little out of time, should embroider or knit or play 
with her little pug etc. when being read to, but above all things 
else that she should frequently speak in such a way as to really 
show that her words presupposed as a condition some thinking 

and feeling Spalanzani was obliged, as has been said, to leave 

the place in order to escape a criminal charge of having fraudu- 
lently imposed an automaton upon human society. 38 

We are now almost face to face with culture's double bind - a certain 
slippage or splitting between human artifice and culture's discursive 
agency. To be true to a self one must leam to be a little untrue, out-of- 
joint with the signification of cultural generalizability. As Hoffmann 
suggests, sing a little out of tune; just fail to hit that top E in James 
Boon's Aida effect; speak in such a way to show that words presuppose 
feeling, which is to assume that a certain nonsense always haunts and 
hinders them. But how untrue must you be to fail to be happily, if 
haphazardly human? That is the colonial question; that, I believe, is 
where the truth lies - as always a little beside the point. 

Native 'folly' emerged as a quasi-legal, cultural category soon after 
the establishment of the Supreme Court in Calcutta in the 1830s, almost 



as the uncanny double of the demand for verisimilitude and testimony 
- the establishment of the Law. Folly is a form of perjury for which 
Halhed assures us, in his preface to the Code of Gentoo Laws, no European 
form of words exists. To our delight and horror, however, we find that 
its structure repeats that enunciatory splitting that I have been attempt- 
ing to describe. It consists, Halhed writes, 

in falsehoods totally incompatible with each other and utterly 

contrary to their own opinion, knowledge and conviction It is 

like the madness so inimitably delineated in Cervantes, sensible 
enough upon some occasions and at the same time completely 
wild and unconscious of itself. 39 

Despite adequate contemporary juridical and sociological explanations 
for perjury, the myth of the lie persists in the pages of power, even 
down to District Officers' reports in the 1920s. What is the truth of the 

When the Muslim is coerced into speaking a Christian truth he denies 
the logic of his senses; the Hindu denies the evidence of his eyes; the 
Bengalee denies his very name as he perjures himself. Or so we are 
told. Each time what comes to be textualized as the truth of the native 
culture is a part that becomes ambivalently incorporated in the archives 
of colonial knowledge. A part like the geographical detail that is spe- 
cious and beside the point. A part like 'folly' that is untranslatable, 
inexplicable, unknowable yet endlessly repeated in the name of the 
native. What emerges in these lies that never speak the 'whole' truth, 
come to be circulated from mouth to mouth, book to book, is the 
institutionalization of a very specific discursive form of paranoia, that 
must be authorized at the point of its dismemberment. It is a form of 
persecutory paranoia that emerges from cultures' own structured 
demand for imitation and identification. It is the archaic survival of the 
'text' of culture, that is the demand and desire of its translations, never 
the mere authority of its originality. Its strategy, as Karl Abrahams has 
described it, is a partial incorporation; a form of incorporation that 
deprives the object of a part of its body in that its integrity may be 
attacked without destroying its existence. 'We are put in mind of a 
child,' the psychoanalyst Karl Abraham writes, 'who catches a fly and 
having pulled off a leg, lets it go again.' 40 The existence of the disabled 
native is required for the next lie and the next and the next - 'The 
Horror! the Horror!' Marlow, you will remember, had to lie as he moved 
from the heart of darkness to the Belgian boudoir. As he replaces the 
words of horror for the name of the Intended we read in that palimpsest, 
neither one nor the other, something of the awkward, ambivalent, 
unwelcome truth of empire's lie. 




Time, narrative and the margins of the 
modern nation 1 


The title of this chapter - DissemiNation - owes something to the wit 
and wisdom of Jacques Derrida, but something more to my own experi- 
ence of migration. I have lived that moment of the scattering of the 
people that in other times and other places, in the nations of others, 
becomes a time of gathering. Gatherings of exiles and emigres and refu- 
gees; gathering on the edge of 'foreign' cultures; gathering at the fron- 
tiers; gatherings in the ghettos or cafes of city centres; gathering in the 
half-life, half-light of foreign tongues, or in the uncanny fluency of 
another's language; gathering the signs of approval and acceptance, 
degrees, discourses, disciplines; gathering the memories of underdevel- 
opment, of other worlds lived retroactively; gathering the past in a ritual 
of revival; gathering the present. Also the gathering of people in the 
diaspora: indentured, migrant, interned; the gathering of incriminatory 
statistics, educational performance, legal statutes, immigration status - 
the genealogy of that lonely figure that John Berger named the seventh 
man. The gathering of clouds from which the Palestinian poet Mahmoud 
Darwish asks 'where should the birds fly after the last sky?' 2 

In the midst of these lonely gatherings of the scattered people, their 
myths and fantasies and experiences, there emerges a historical fact of 
singular importance. More deliberately than any other general historian, 
Eric Hobsjbawm 3 writes the history of thejpadero Western nation from 
fhe perspective of the nation's margin and the migrants' e>ile. The 
emergence of the later phase of the modem nation, .from the. midr 
nineteenth century, is also one of ..the most sustained p eriods of mas s 
migration within the West, and colonial expansi on in the East Th e 
nation fills the void left in the uprooting; of communities^ and kin, and 
turns that loss into* the language of metaphor. Meta pho r, as the ety- 
molog y •o^"me~'w6r3 suggests, transfers the meaning- of home-and. 
b^longing7 across the 'middle passage', or the central European steppes. 



aaos§Jii0se~di9tane€Sr and cultural differences) that span, Jhejmagined 
community of -fee natiert»pe6ple. 

The discourse of nationalism is not my main concern. In some ways 
it is the historical certainty and settled nature of that term against which 
I am attempting to write of the Western nation as an obscure and 
ubiquitous form of living the locality of culture. This locality is more 
around temporality than about historicity: a form of living that is 
more complex than 'community'; more symbolic than 'society'; more 
connotative than 'country'; less patriotic than patrie; more rhetorical than 
the reason of State; more mythological than ideology; less homogeneous 
than hegemony; less centred than the citizen; more collective than 'the 
subject'; more psychic than civility; more hybrid in the articulation of 
cultural differences and identifications than can be represented in any 
hierarchical or binary structuring of social antagonism. 

In proposing this cultural construction of nationness as a form of 
social and textual affiliation, I do not wish to deny these categories 
their specific histories and particular meanings within different political 
languages. What I am attempting to formulate in this chapter are the 
co mplex Strategies of n^hir^JArnHf^^ ^ discursive addregS tM 
function in the name of 'the people' or 'the nation' afldjnateJ hem th e 
immanent subjects of a range of social and literary narratives. My 
emphasis on the temporal dimension in the inscription of these political 
entities - that are also potent symbolic and affective sources of cultural 
identity - serves to displace the historicism that has- dominaiedLdis- 
cussions of th e nation a s a cultural force. The linear equivalence of event 
and idea that rustoriasm proposes, most commonly signifies a people, 
a nation, or a national culture as an empirical sociological category or a 
holistic cultural entity. Tlowever, the narrative and psychological force 
that nationness brings to bear on cultural production and political pro- 
jection is the effect of the ambivalence of the 'nation' as a narrative 
strategy. As an apparatus of symbolic power, it produc es a co ntinual 
slippage of caTegbriesTBfce •sexuality, class affiliation, territorial paranoia, 
or 'cultural difference' in the act of writing the nation. What is displayed 
in Sis displacement and repetition of terms is the nation as the measure 
of the liminality of cultural modernity. 

Edward Said aspires to such secular interpretation in his concept jaf. 
'wordliness' where 'sensuous particularity as well as historical contin- 
gency . . . exist at the same level of surface particularity as the textual object 
itself (my emphasis). 4 Fredric Jameson invokes something similar in 
his notion of 'situational consciousness' or national allegory, 'where the 
telling of the individual story and the individual experience cannot but 
ultimately involve the whole laborious telling of the collectivity itself.' 5 
And Julia Kristeva speaks perhaps too hastily of the pleasure of exile - 
'How can one avoid sinking into the mire of common sense, if not by 



becoming^stranger to one's own country, language, sex and identity?' 6 
- without realizing how fully the shadow of the nation falls^olfrthe 
condition of exile - which may partly explain her own later, labile 
identifications with the images of other nations: 'China', 'America'. The 
entitlement of the nation is its metaphor: Amor Patria; Fatherland; Pig 
Earth; Mothertongue; Matigari; Middlemarch; Midnight's Children; One 
Hundred Years of Solitude; War and Peace; I Promessi Sposi; Kanthapura; 
Moby-Dick; The Magic Mountain; Things Fall Apart. 

There must be a tribe of interpreters of such metaphors - the trans- 
lators of the dissemination of texts and discourses across cultures - who 
can perform what Said describes as the act of secular interpretation. 

To take account of this horizontal, secular space of the crowded 
spectacle of the modem nation . . . implies that no single expla- 
nation sending one back immediately to a single origin is adequate. 
And just as there are no simple dynastic answers, there are no 
simple discrete formations or social processes. 7 

If, in our travelling theory, we are alive to the metaphoricity of the 
peoples of imagined communities - migrant or metropolitan - then we 
shall find that the space of the modem nation-people is never simply 
horizontal. Their metaphoric movement requires a kind of 'doubleness' 
in writing; a temporality of representation that moves between cultural 
formations and social processes without a centred causal logic. And 
such cultural movements disperse the homogeneous, visual time of the 
horizontal society. The secular language of interpretation needs to. go 
beyond the horizontal critical gaze if we are to give 'the nonsequential 
enejrgy of lived historical memory and subjectivity'Jts appjropnaSe^rfa- 
tive authority. We need another time of writing that will be able to 
inscribe the ambivalent and chiasmatic intersections offline and place 
that constitute the problematic 'modem' experience of the Western 

How does one write the nation's modernity as the event of the every- 
day and the advent of the epochal? The language of national belonging 
comes laden with atavistic apologues, which has led Benedict Anderson 
to ask: 'But why do nations celebrate their hoariness, not their astonish- 
ing youth?' 8 The nation's claim to modernity, as an autonomous or 
sovereign form of political rationality, is particularly questionable if, 
with Partha Chatterjee, we adopt the postcolonial perspective: 

Nationalism . . . seeks to represent itself in the image of the Eng- 
lightenment and fails to do so. For Enlightenment itself, to assert 
its sovereignty as the universal ideal, needs its Other; if it could 
ever actualise itself in the real world as the truly universal, it 
would in fact destroy itself. 9 



Such ideological ambivalence nicely supports Gellner's paradoxical 
point that the historical necessity of the idea of the nation conflicts with 
the contingent and arbitrary signs and symbols that signify the affective 
life of the national culture. The nation may exemplify modem social 
cohesion but 

Nationalism is not what it seems, and above all not what it seems to 
itself. . . . The cultural shreds and patches used by nationalism are 
often arbitrary historical inventions. Any old shred would have 
served as well. But in no way does it follow that the principle of 
nationalism ... is itself in the least contingent and accidental. 10 
(My emphasis) 

The problematic boundaries of modernity are enacted in these ambiva- 
lent temporalities of the nation-space. The language of culture and 
community is poised on the fissures of the present becoming the rhetori- 
cal figures of a national past. Historians transfixed on the event and 
origins of the nation never ask, and political theorists possessed of the 
'modem' totalities of the nation - 'homogeneity, literacy and anonymity 
are the key traits'" - never pose, the essential question of the represen- 
tation of the nation as a temporal process. 

It is indeed only in the disjunctive time of the nation's modernity - 
as a knowledge caught between political rationality and its impasse, 
between the shreds and patches of cultural signification and the certain- 
ties of a nationalist pedagogy - that questions of nation as narration 
come to be posed. How do we plot the narrative of the nation that must 
mediate between the teleology of progress tipping over into the 'time- 
less' discourse of irrationality? How do we understand that 'homogen- 
eity' of modernity - the people - which, if pushed too far, may assume 
something resembling the archaic body of the despotic or totalitarian 
mass? In the midst of progress and modernity, the language of ambiv- 
alence reveals a politics 'without duration', as Althusser once provoca- 
tively wrote: 'Space without places, time without duration.' 12 To write 
the story of the nation demands that we articulate that archaic ambiv- 
alence that informs the time of modernity. We may begin by questioning 
that progressive metaphor of modem social cohesion - the many as one 

- shared by organic theories of the holism of culture and community, 
and by theorists who treat gender, class or race as social totalities that 
are expressive of unitary collective experiences. 

Out of many one: nowhere has this founding dictum of the political 
society of the modem nation - its spatial expression of a unitary people 

- found a more intriguing image of itself than in those diverse languages 
of literary criticism that seek to portray the great power of the idea of 
the nation in the disclosures of its everyday life; in the telling details 
that emerge as metaphors for national life. I am reminded of Bakhtin's 



wonderful description of a national vision of emergence in Goethe's Italian 
Journey, which represents the triumph of the Realistic component over 
the Romantic. Goethe's realist narrative produces a national-historical 
time that makes visible a specifically Italian day in the detail of its 
passing time: 'The bells ring, the rosary is said, the maid enters the 
room with a lighted lamp and says: Felicissima notte! . . . If one were to 
force a German clockhand on them, they would be at a loss.' 13 For Bakhtin, 
it is Goethe's vision of the microscopic, elementary, perhaps random, 
tolling of everyday life in Italy that reveals the profound history of 
its locality (Lokalitat), the spatialization of historical time, 'a creative 
humanization of this locality, which transforms a part of terrestrial space 
into a place of historical life for people'. 14 

The recurrent metaphor of landscape as the inscape of national ident- 
ity emphasizes the quality of light, the question of social visibility, the 
power of the eye to naturalize the rhetoric of national affiliation and its 
forms of collective expression. There is, however, always the distracting 
presence of another temporality that disturbs the contemporaneity of 
the national present, as we saw in the national discourses with which I 
began. Despite Bakhtin's emphasis on the realist vision in the emergence 
of the nation in Goethe's work, he acknowledges that the origin of the 
nation's visual presence is the effect of a narrative struggle. From 
the beginning, Bakhtin writes, the Realist and Romantic conceptions of 
time coexist in Goethe's work, but the ghostly (Gespenstermassiges), the 
terrifying (Unerfreuliches), and the unaccountable (Unzuberechnendes) are 
consistently surmounted by the structuring process of the visualization 
of time: 'the necessity of the past and the necessity of its place in a 
line of continuous development . . . finally the aspect of the past being 
linked to the necessary future'. 15 National time becomes concrete and 
visible in the chronotype of the local, particular, graphic, from beginning 
to end. The narrative structure of this historical surmounting of the 
'ghostly' or the 'double' is seen in the intensification of narrative synch- 
rony as a graphically visible position in space: 'to grasp the most elusive 
course of pure historical time and fix it through unmediated contem- 
plation'. 16 But what kind of 'present' is this if it is a consistent process 
of surmounting the ghostly time of repetition? Can this national time- 
space be as fixed or as immediately visible as Bakhtin claims? 

If in Bakhtin's 'surmounting' we hear the echo of another use of that 
word by Freud in his essay on 'The "uncanny" ', then we begin to get 
a sense of the complex time of the national narrative. Freud associates 
surmounting with the repressions of a 'cultural' unconscious; a liminal, 
uncertain state of cultural belief when the archaic emerges in the midst 
of margins of modernity as a result of some psychic ambivalence 
or intellectual uncertainty. The 'double' is the figure most frequently 
associated with this uncanny process of 'the doubling, dividing and 



interchanging of the self'. 17 Such 'double-time' cannot be so simply 
represented as visible or flexible in 'unmediated contemplation'; nor can 
we accept Bakhtin's repeated attempt to read the national space as 
achieved only in the fullness of time. Such an apprehension of the 'double 
and split' time of national representation, as I am proposing, leads us 
to question the homogeneous and horizontal view associated with the 
nation's imagined community. We are led to ask whether the emergence 
of a national perspective - of an elite or subaltern nature - within a 
culture of social contestation, can ever articulate its 'representative' 
authority in that fullness of narrative time and visual synchrony of the 
sign that Bakhtin proposes. 

Two accounts of the emergence of national narratives seem to support 
my suggestion. They represent the diametically opposed world views 
of master and slave which, between them, account for the major histori- 
cal and philosophical dialectic of modem times. I am thinking of John 
Barrell's 18 splendid analysis of the rhetorical and perspectival status of 
the 'English gentleman' within the social diversity of the eighteenth- 
century novel; and of Houston Baker's innovative reading of the 'new 
national modes of sounding, interpreting and speaking the Negro in the 
Harlem Renaissance'. 19 

In his concluding essay Barrell demonstrates how the demand for a 
holistic, representative vision of society could only be represented in 
a discourse that was at the same time obsessively fixed upon, and uncer- 
tain of, the boundaries of society, and the margins of the text. For 
instance, the hypostatized 'common language' which was the language 
of the gentleman whether he be Observer, Spectator, Rambler, 'Common 
to all by virtue of the fact that it manifested the peculiarities of none' 20 
- was primarily defined through a process of negation - of regionalism, 
occupation, faculty - so that this centred vision of 'the gentleman' is so 
to speak 'a condition of empty potential, one who is imagined as being 
able to comprehend everything, and yet who may give no evidence of 
having comprehended anything.' 21 

A different note of liminality is struck in Baker's description of the 
'radical maroonage' that structured the emergence of an insurgent Afro- 
American expressive culture in its expansive, 'national' phase. Baker's 
sense that the 'discursive project' of the Harlem Renaissance is modern- 
ist is based less on a strictly literary understanding of the term, and 
more on the agonistic enunciative conditions within which the Harlem 
Renaissance shaped its cultural practice. The transgressive, invasive 
structure of the black 'national' text, which thrives on rhetorical 
strategies of hybridity, deformation, masking, and inversion, is 
developed through an extended analogy with the guerilla warfare that 
became a way of life for the maroon communities of runaway slaves and 
fugitives who lived dangerously, and insubordinately, 'on the frontiers or 



margins of all American promise, profit and modes of production'. 22 
From this liminal, minority position where, as Foucault would say, the 
relations of discourse are of the nature of warfare, the force of the people 
of an Afro-American nation emerge in the extended metaphor of 
maroonage. For 'warriors' read writers or even 'signs': 

these highly adaptable and mobile warriors took maximum advan- 
tage of local environments, striking and withdrawing with great 
rapidity, making extensive use of bushes to catch their adversaries 
in cross-fire, fighting only when and where they chose, depending 
on reliable intelligence networks among non-maroons (both slave 
and white settlers) and often communicating by horns. 23 

Both gentleman and slave, with different cultural means and to very 
different historical ends, demonstrate that forces of social authority and 
subversion or subalternity may emerge in displaced, even decentred 
strategies of signification. This does not prevent these positions from 
being effective in a political sense, although it does suggest that posi- 
tions of authority may themselves be part of a process of ambivalent 
identification. Indeed the exercise of power may be both politically 
effective and psychically affective because the discursive liminality 
through which it is signified may provide greater scope for strategic 
manoeuvre and negotiation. 

It is precisely in reading between these borderlines of the nation- 
space that we can see how the concept of the 'people' emerges within 
a range of discourses as a double narrative movement. The people are 
not simply historical events or parts of a patriotic body politic. They 
are also a complex rhetorical strategy of social reference: their claim to 
be representative provokes a crisis within the process of signification 
and discursive address. We then have a contested conceptual territory 
where the nation's people must be thought in double-time; the people 
are the historical 'objects' of a nationalist pedagogy, giving the discourse 
an authority that is based on the pre-given or constituted historical 
origin in the past; the people are also the 'subjects' of a process of 
signification that must erase any prior or originary presence of the 
nation-people to demonstrate the prodigious, living principles of the 
people as contemporaneity: as that sign of the present through which 
national life is redeemed and iterated as a reproductive process. 

The scraps, patches and rags of daily life must be repeatedly turned 
into the signs of a coherent national culture, while the very act of the 
narrative performance interpellates a growing circle of national subjects. 
In the production of the nation as narration there is a split between 
the continuist, accumulative temporality of the pedagogical, and the 
repetitious, recursive strategy of the performative. It is through this 



process of splitting that the conceptual ambivalence of modem society 
becomes the site of Tvriting the nation. 


The tension between the pedagogical and the performative that I have 
identified in the narrative address of the nation, turns the reference to 
a 'people' - from whatever political or cultural position it is made - 
into a problem of knowledge that haunts the symbolic formation of 
modem social authority. The people are neither the beginning nor the 
end of the national narrative; they represent the cutting edge between 
the totalizing powers of the 'social' as homogeneous, consensual com- 
munity, and the forces that signify the more specific address to conten- 
tious, unequal interests and identities within the population. The 
ambivalent signifying system of the nation-space participates in a more 
general genesis of ideology in modem societies that Claude Lefort has 
described. For him too it is 'enigma of language', at once internal and 
external to the speaking subject, that provides the most apt analogue for 
imagining the structure of ambivalence that constitutes modem social 
authority. I shall quote him at length, because his rich ability to represent 
the movement of political power beyond the binary division of the blind- 
ness of Ideology or the insight of the Idea, brings him to that liminal 
site of modem society from which I have attempted to derive the 
narrative of the nation and its people. 

In Ideology the representation of the rule is split from the effective 
operation of it. . . . The rule is thus extracted from experience of 
language; it is circumscribed, made fully visible and assumed to 
govern the conditions of possibility of this experience. . . . The 
enigma of language - namely that it is both internal and external 
to the speaking subject, that there is an articulation of the self with 
others which marks the emergence of the self and which the self 
does not control - is concealed by the representation of a place 
'outside' - language from which it could be generated. . . . We 
encounter the ambiguity of the representation as soon as the rule 
is stated; for its very exhibition undermines the power that the 
rule claims to introduce into practice. This exorbitant power must, 
in fact, be shown, and at the same time it must owe nothing to 
the movement which makes it appear. ... To be true to its image, 
the rule must be abstracted from any question concerning its 
origin; thus it goes beyond the operations that it controls. . . . Only 
the authority of the master allows the contradiction to be con- 
cealed, but he is himself an object of representation; presented as 



possessor of the knowledge of the rule, he allows the contradiction 
to appear through himself. 

The ideological discourse that we are examining has no safety 
catch; it is rendered vulnerable by its attempt to make visible the 
place from which the social relation would be conceivable (both 
thinkable and creatable) by its inability to define this place without 
letting its contingency appear, without condemning itself to slide 
from one position to another, without hereby making apparent the 
instability of an order that it is intended to raise to the status of 

essence [The ideological] task of the implicit generalization 

of knowledge and the implicit homogenization of experience could 
fall apart in the face of the unbearable ordeal of the collapse of 
certainty, of the vacillation of representations of discourse and as 
a result of the splitting of the subject. 24 

How do we conceive of the 'splitting' of the national subject? How 
do we articulate cultural differences within this vacillation of ideology 
in which the national discourse also participates, sliding ambivalently 
from one enunciatory position to another? What are the forms of life 
struggling to be represented in that unruly 'time' of national culture, 
which Bakhtin surmounts in his reading of Goethe, Gellner associates 
with the rags and patches of everyday life, Said describes as 'the non- 
sequential energy of lived historical memory and subjectivity' and Lef ort 
re-presents as the inexorable movement of signification that both consti- 
tutes the exorbitant image of power and deprives it of the certainty and 
stability of centre or closure? What might be the cultural and political 
effects of the liminality of the nation, the margins of modernity, which 
come to be signified in the narrative temporalities of splitting, ambiv- 
alence and vacillation? 

Deprived of that unmediated visibility of historicism - 'looking to the 
legitimacy of past generations as supplying cultural autonomy' 25 - 
the nation turns from being the symbol of modernity into becoming the 
symptom of an ethnography of the 'contemporary' within modem cul- 
ture. Such a shift in perspective emerges from an acknowledgement 
of the nation's interrupted address articulated in the tension between 
signifying the people as an a priori historical presence, a pedagogical 
object; and the people constructed in the performance of narrative, its 
enunciatory 'present' marked in the repetition and pulsation of the 
national siga The pedagogical founds its narrative authority in a tra- 
dition of the people, described by Poulantzas 26 as a moment of becoming 
designated by itself, encapsulated in a succession of historical moments 
that represents an eternity produced by self-generation. The perform- 
ative intervenes in the sovereignty of the nation's self-generation by 



casting a shadow between the people as 'image' and its signification as 
a differentiating sign of Self, distinct from the Other of the Outside. 

In place of the polarity of a prefigurative self -generating nation 'in- 
itself ' and extrinsic other nations, the performative introduces a tempor- 
ality of the 'in-between'. The boundary that marks the nation's selfhood 
interrupts the self -generating time of national production and disrupts 
the signification of the people as homogeneous. The problem is not 
simply the 'selfhood' of the nation as opposed to the otherness of other 
nations. We are confronted with the nation split within itself, articulating 
the heterogeneity of its population. The barred Nation It/ Self, alienated 
from its eternal self-generation, becomes a liminal signifying space that 
is internally marked by the discourses of minorities, the heterogeneous 
histories of contending peoples, antagonistic authorities and tense 
locations of cultural difference. 

This double-writing or dissemi-waf ion, is not simply a theoretical exer- 
cise in the internal contradictions of the modern liberal nation. The 
structure of cultural liminahty zvithin the nation would be an essential 
precondition for deploying a concept such as Raymond Williams's cru- 
cial distinction between residual and emergent practices in oppositional 
cultures which require, he insists, a 'non-metaphysical, non-subjectivist' 
mode of explanation. The space of cultural signification that I have 
attempted to open up through the intervention of the performative, 
would meet this important precondition. The liminal figure of the 
nation-space would ensure that no political ideologies could claim tran- 
scendent or metaphysical authority for themselves. This is because the 
subject of cultural discourse - the agency of a people - is split in 
the discursive ambivalence that emerges in the contest of narrative 
authority between the pedagogical and the performative. This disjunc- 
tive temporality of the nation would provide the appropriate time-frame 
for representing those residual and emergent meanings and practices 
that Williams locates in the margins of the contemporary experience of 
society. Their emergence depends upon a kind of social ellipsis; their 
transformational power depends upon their being historically displaced: 

But in certain areas, there will be in certain periods, practices and 
meanings which are not reached for. There will be areas of practice 
and meaning which, almost by definition from its own limited 
character, or in its profound deformation, the dominant culture is 
unable in any real terms to recognize. 27 

When Edward Said suggests that the question of the nation should be 
put on the contemporary critical agenda as a hermeneutic of 'world- 
liness', he is fully aware that such a demand can only now be made 
from the liminal and ambivalent boundaries that articulate the signs of 
national culture, as 'zones of control or of abandonment, or recollection 



and of forgetting, of force or of dependence, of exclusiveness or of 
sharing' (my emphasis). 28 

Counter-narratives of the nation that continually evoke and erase 
its totalizing boundaries - both actual and conceptual - disturb those 
ideological manoeuvres through which 'imagined communities' are 
given essentialist identities. For the political unity of the nation consists 
in a continual displacement of the anxiety of its irredeemably plural 
modem space - representing the nation's modem territoriality is turned 
into the archaic, atavistic temporality of Traditionalism. The difference 
of space returns as the Sameness of time, turning Territory into Tradition, 
turning the People into One. The liminal point of this ideological dis- 
placement is the turning of the differentiated spatial boundary, the 
'outside', into the authenticating 'inward' time of Tradition. Freud's 
concept of the 'narcissism of minor differences' 29 - reinterpreted for our 
purposes - provides a way of undertanding how easily the boundary 
that secures the cohesive limits of the Western nation may imperceptibly 
turn into a contentious internal liminality providing a place from which 
to speak both of, and as, the minority, the exilic, the marginal and the 

Freud uses the analogy of feuds that prevail between communities 
with adjoining territories - the Spanish and the Portuguese, for instance 
- to illustrate the ambivalent identification of love and hate that binds 
a community together: 'it is always possible to bind together a consider- 
able number of people in love, so long as there are other people left to 
receive the manifestation of their aggressiveness.' 30 The problem is, of 
course, that the ambivalent identifications of love and hate occupy the 
same psychic space; and paranoid projections 'outwards' return to haunt 
and split the place from which they are made. So long as a firm bound- 
ary is maintained between the territories, and the narcissistic wound is 
contained, the aggressivity will be projected on to the Other or the 
Outside. But what if, as I have argued, the people are the articulation 
of a doubling of the national address, an ambivalent movement between 
the discourses of pedagogy and the performative? What if, as Lefort 
argues, the subject of modem ideology is split between the iconic image 
of authority and the movement of the signifier that produces the 
image, so that the 'sign' of the social is condemned to slide ceaselessly 
from one position to another? It is in this space of liminality, in the 
'unbearable ordeal of the collapse of certainty' that we encounter once 
again the narcissistic neuroses of the national discourse with which I 
began. The nation is no longer the sign of modernity under which 
cultural differences are homogenized in the 'horizontal' view of society. 
The nation reveals, in its ambivalent and vacillating representation, an 
ethnography of its own claim to being the norm of social contempor- 



The people turn pagan in that disseminatory act of social narrative 
that Lyotard defines, against the Platonic tradition, as the privileged 
pole of the narrated: 

where the one doing the speaking speaks from the place of the 
referent. As narrator she is narrated as well. And in a way she is 
already told, and what she herself is telling will not undo that 
somewhere else she is toldP (My emphasis) 

This narrative inversion or circulation - which is in the spirit of my 
splitting of the people - makes untenable any supremacist, or nationalist 
claims to cultural mastery, for the position of narrative control is neither 
monocular nor monologic. The subject is graspable only in the passage 
between telling/ told, between 'here' and 'somewhere else', and in this 
double scene the very condition of cultural knowledge is the alienation 
of the subject. 

The significance of this narrative splitting of the subject of identifi- 
cation is borne out in Levi-Strauss's description of the ethnographic 
act. 32 The ethnographic demands that the observer himself is a part of 
his observation and this requires that the field of knowledge - the total 
social fact - must be appropriated from the outside like a thing, but 
like a thing which comprises within itself the subjective understanding 
of the indigenous. The transposition of this process into the language 
of the outsider's grasp - this entry into the area of the symbolic of 
representation /signification - then makes the social fact 'three-dimen- 
sional'. For ethnography demands that the subject has to split itself into 
object and subject in the process of identifying its field of knowledge. 
The ethnographic object is constituted 'by dint of the subject's capacity 
for indefinite self-objectification (without ever quite abolishing itself as 
subject) for projecting outside itself ever-diminishing fragments of 
itself '. 

Once the liminality of thenation-space is established, andJts .signify- 
ing difference is turned from the boundary 'outside' to its finitude 
'within', the threat of cultural difference is no longer a problem of 
'other' people. It becomes a question of otherness of the pepple-as-pne. 
The national subject splits in the ethnographic perspective of culture's 
contemporaneity and provides both a theoretical position and a narra- 
tive authority for marginal voices or minority discourse\They no longer 
need to address their strategies of opposition to a horizon of 'hegemony' 
that is envisaged as horizontal and homogeneous. The great contribution 
of Foucault's last published work is to suggest that people emerge in 
the modem state as a perpetual movement of 'the marginal integration 
of individuals'. 'What are we to-day?' 33 Foucault poses this most perti- 
nent ethnographic question to the West itself to reveal the alterity of its 
political rationality. He suggests that the 'reason of state' in the modem 



nation must be derived from the heterogeneous and differentiated limits 
of its territory. The nation cannot be conceived in a state of equilibrium 
between several elements co-ordinated and maintained by a 'good' law. 

, Each state is in permanent competition with other countries, other 
£ I nations ... so that each state has nothing before it other than 
jj an indefinite future of struggles. Politics has now to deal with an 
hi irreducible multiplicity of states struggling and competing in a 

i limited history . . . the State is its own finality. 34 

What is politically significant is the effect of this finitude of the State 
on the liminal representation of the people. The people will _no i longer 
be contained in that natipnal ,. discourse. .olJfeeltfl eofofj i y of .progress; • 
the anbn : g miS^,mdividuab; the spatial horizontally. oicommtiruly;.the. 
homogeneous time of social narratives; the historicist visibility of mod- 
ernity, whereJthe_pjEese&t of -each leveL[of the social] comcMefrJiwffi^he 
pfesent of all Jheuothers, so that the pr.eseat_is_ari ^ssenfiai section whic h 
makes > jfee essence wsiWe'^ The finitude qfjha_naficai^emphasizes_ihe 
impossibility of such an expressive totality with its .alliance between a 
platitudinous present and the eternal visibility of a past. The liminality 
of the people - their double-inscription as pedagogical objects and per- 
formative subjects - demands a 'time' of narrative that is disavowed in 
the discourse of historicism where narrative is only the agency of the 
event, or the medium of a naturalistic continuity of Community or 
Tradition. In describing the marginalistic integration of the individual 
in the social totality. Foucault provides a useful description of the ration- 
ality of the modem nation. Its main characteristic, he writes, 

is neither the constitution of the state, the coldest of cold monsters, 
nor the rise of bourgeois individualism. I won't even say it is the 
constant effort to integrate individuals into the political totality. I 
think that the main characteristic of our political rationality is the 
fact that this integration of the individuals in a community or in 
a totality results from a constant correlation between an increasing 
individualisation and the reinforcement of this totality. From this 
point of view we can understand why modem political rationality 
is permitted by the antinomy between law and order. 36 

From Foucault's Discipline and Punish we have learned that the most 
individuated are those subjects who are placed on the margins of the 
social, so that the tension between law and order may produce the disci- 
plinary or pastoral society. Having placed the people on the limits of 
the nation's narrative, I now want to explore forms of cultural identity 
and political solidarity that emerge from the disjunctive temporalities 
of the national culture. This is a lesson of history to be learnt from 
those peoples whose histories of marginality have been most profoundly 



enmeshed in the antinomies of law and order - the colonized and 


The difficulty of writing the history of the people as the insurmountable 
agonism of the living, the incommensurable experiences of struggle and 
survival in the construction of a national culture, is nowhere better seen 
than in Fr antz Fa non's essay 'On national culture'. 37 I start with it 
because it is a warning against the intellectual appropriation of the 
'culture of the people' (whatever that may be) within a representational- 
ist discourse that may become fixed and reified in the annals of History, 
fo"""! WTitP* "C'nst for^ «rf mlfawM fri«toriri«™ that assumes 
that^here-is ,a.. moment when the differential temporalities of cultural 
histories coalesce in an immediately readable present. For my purposes, 
j^Mx3l^J^AeJime of cultural represMtlflpii^ffistead Pf immediately 
historicizing the event. He explores the space of the nation without 
immediately identifying it with the historical institution of the State. As 
my concern here is not with the history of nationalist movements, but 
only with certain traditions of writing that have attempted to construct 
narratives of the social imaginary of the nation-people, I am indebted 
to Fanon for liberating a certain, uncertain time of the people. 

The knowledge of the people depends on the discovery, Fanon says, 
'of a much more fundamental substance which itself is continually being 
renewed', a structure of repetition that is not visible in the translucidity 
of the people's customs or the obvious objectivities which seem to 
characterize the people. 'Culture abhors simplification,' Fanon writes, 
as he tries to locate the people in a performative time: 'the fluctuating 
movement that the people are just giving shape to'. The present of the 
people's history, then, is a practice that destroys the constant principles 
of the national culture that attempt to hark back to a 'true' national 
past, which is often represented in the reified forms of realism and 
stereotype. Such pedagogical knowledges and continuist national narra- 
tives miss the 'zone of occult instability where the people dwell' 
(Fanon's phrase). It is from this instability of cultural sig^cji.tjbn_tiKat 
the nationajjcultur e comes to be articulated as a dialectic_OjLvarious 
temp oralities - modern^c oloni aL postcolonial, 'native' - that cannot be 
aJan owledge JthaTis stabilized in its enunciation: 'it is always contempor- 
aneous with the act or recitation. It "is tKe present act that on each of its 
occurrences marshalls in the ephemeral temporality inhabiting the space 
between the "I have heard" and "you will hear".' 38 

Fanon's critique of the fixed and stable forms of the nationalist narra- 
tive makes it imperative to question theories of the horizontal, homo- 
geneous empty time of the nation's narrative. Does the language of 



culture's 'occult instability' have a relevance outside the situation of anti- 
colonial struggle? Does the incommensurable act of living - so often 
dismissed as ethical or empirical - have its own ambivalent narrative, 
its own history of theory? Can it change the way we identify the 
symbolic structure of the Western nation? 

A similar exploration of political time has a salutary feminist history 
in "'Women's time"'. 39 If has rarely been acknowledged that Kristeva's 
celeBTatgd" essay of that title has its conjunctural, cultural history, not 
simply in psychoanalysis and semiotics, but in a powerful critique and 
redefinition of the nation as a space for the emergence of feminist 
pouticaT" ancTpsychic identifications. The nation as a symbolic denomi- 
nator isTaccof dDig to Kristeva, a powerful repository of cultural knowl- 
edge that erases the rationalist and progressive] logics of the 'can onical' 
natioTtrTnis symbolic history ollhenational culture is inscribed in the 
strange temporality of the future perfect, the effects of which are not 
dissimilar to Fanon's occult instability. 

The borders of the nation Kristeva claims, are constantly faced with 
a double temporality: thejgrocess of identity constituted by historical 
sedimentah"onTthe pedagogical); and the loss of identity in the "signify- 
ing process of cultural identification (the performative). The time and 
space of Kirsteva's construction of the nation's finitude is analogous to 
my argument that the figure of ^ .p^^ ^n^^jj^JS^^jms^ye 
ambivalence of disjunctive times and meanings. The concurrent circu- 
lation of linear, cursive and monumental time, in the same cultural 
space, constitutes a new historical temporality that Kristeva identifies 
with psychoanalytically informed/ feminist strat gies of political identi- 
fication. What is remarkable is her insistence that the gendered sign can 
hold together such exorbitant historical times. 

The political effects of Kristeva's multiple women's time leads to what 
she calls the 'demassification of difference'. The cultural moment of 
Fanon's 'occult instability' signifies the people in a fluctuating move- 
ment which they are just giving shape to, so that postcolonial time ques- 
tions the teleological traditions of past and present, and the polarized 
historicist sensibility of the archaic and the modern. These are not simply 
attempts to invert the balance of power within an unchanged order of 
discourse. Fanon and Kristeyj jseek to redefine the jymbolic process 
through which the social imaginary - nation, culture or community - 
becomes the subject of discourse, and the object of psychic identification. 
These feminist and postcolonial temporalities force us to relhinkjthe 
sign of history.^fJim m |hOse languages, political or literary, which desig- 
nate the peopJe,.'as„ one'. They challenge lis to think the question of 
community and communication without the moment of transcendence: 
how do we understand such forms of social contradiction? 

Cultural identification is then poised on the brink of what Kristeva 



calls the 'loss of identity' or Fanon describes as a profound cultural 
'undecidability'. The people as a form of address emerge from the 
abyss of enunciation where the subject splits, the signifier 'fades', the 
pedagogical and the performative are agonistically articulated. TheJan- 
guage of national collectivity and cohesiveness is now at stake. Neither 
can cultural homogeneity, or the nation's horizontal space be authoritat- 
ively represented within the familiar territory of the public sphere, social 
causality cannot be adequately understood as a deterministic or overdet- 
ermined effect of a 'statist' centre; nor can the rationality of political 
choice be divided between the polar realms of the private and the 
public. The narrative of national cohesion can no longer be signified, in 
Anderson's words, as a 'sociological solidity' 40 fixed in a 'succession of 
plurals' - hospitals, prisons, remote villages - where the social space is 
clearly bounded by such repeated objects that represent a naturalistic, 
national horizon. 

_ Such a pluralism of the national s ig n, wh ere difference returns as the 
same, is contested by ..-the...siynifie^ , s-4oss....of/idenHry y "mat inscribes 
ffieTiarrative of the people in the ambivalent, 'double' writing of Ihe 
performative and the pedagogical. The movement of meaning between 
the masterful image of the people and the movement of its sign inter- 
rupts the succession of plurals that produce the sociological solidity of 
the national narratiye^JTh g nation's totality is confronted wi th^and 
crossed by ,j i supplementary mo vemejiLQLwriting. The heterogeneous 
structure of Derridean supplementarity in zvriting closely follows the 
agonistic, ambivalent movement between the pedagogical and perform- 
ative that informs the nation's narrative address. A supplement, accord- 
ing to one meaning, 'cumulates and accumulates presence. It is thus 
that art, techne, image, representation, convention, etc. come as sup- 
plements to nature and are rich with this entire cumulating function' 40 
(pedagogical). The double entendre of the supplement suggests, however, 

[It] intervenes or insinuates itself in-the-place-of. ... If it represents 
and makes an image it is by the anterior default of a presence . . . 
the supplement is an adjunct, a subaltern instance As substi- 
tute, it is not simply added to the positivity of a presence, it 
produces no relief. . . . Somewhere, something can be filled up of 
itself . . . only by allowing itself to be filled through sign and 
proxy. 42 (performative) 

It is in this supplementary space of doubling - not plurality - where the 
image is presence and proxy, where the sign supplements and empties 
nature, that the disjunctive times of Fanon and Kristeva can be turned 
into the discourses of emergent cultural identities, within a non-plural- 
istic politics of difference. 



This supplementary space of cultural signification that opens up - 
and holds together - the performative and the pedagogical, provides 
a narrative structure characteristic of modem political rationality: the 
marginal integration of individuals in a repetitious movement between 
the antinomies of law and order. From the liminal movement of the 
culture of the nation - at once openecTup and" held together - minority 
discourse emerges. Its strategy of intervention is similar to what British 
parliamentary procedure recognizes as a supplementary question. It is 
a question that is supplementary to what is stated on the 'order paper' 
for the minister's response. Coming 'after' the original,, or jn 'addition 
to' it, gives, the.suppjementary question the advantage of introducing a 
senseof Jsjecondariness' or belatedness into the structure of the original 
demand. The supplementary strategy suggests that adding 'to' need not 
'acid up' but may disturb the calculation. As Gasche has succinctly 
suggested, 'supplements ... are pluses that compensate for a minus in 
the origin.' 43 The supplementary strategy mteiruptsJfae _successive seria l- 
ity of the narrative of plurals and plurafaaoy^jra^a^ cha nai^J Sigtf 
mode of articulation. In the metaphor ,oi_thf national community as the, 
'many as one', the \ one is now both the tendency to totalize the^spcial in 
a Jtomogenous empty time, and the repetition, .ofjfaaj. minus in. the 
origin, the less-than-one that intervenes with a metonymic, iterative 

One cultural effect of such a metonymic interruption in the represen- 
tation of the people, is apparent in Julia Kristeva's politi cal 'writings. K 
we elide her concepts of women's time and female exile, then she 
seems to argue that the 'singularity' of woman - her representation as 
fragmentation and drive - produces a dissidence, and a distanciation, 
within the symbolic bond itself which demystifies 'the community of 
language as a universal .and. .unifying tool, one which totalises and 
eaualjses'. 44 The minority does not simply confront the pedagogical, or 
powerful master-discourse with a contradictory or negating referent. It 
interrogates its object by initially withholding its objective. Insinuating 
itself into the terms of reference of the dominant discourse, the sup- 
plementary an tagoniz es theimpticitpower to generalize, to produce the 
sociplogical_§olidityrThe questioning of the supplement is hoFaTepeti- 
tive rhetoric of the 'end' of society but a meditation on the disposition 
of space and time from which the narrative of the nation must begin. 
The power of supplementarity is not the negation of the preconstituted 
social contradictions of the past or present; its force lies - as we shall 
see in the discussion of Handsworth Songs that follows - in the renego- 
tiation of those times, terms and traditions through which we turn our 
uncertain, passing contemporaneity into the signs of history. 

Handsworth Songs* is a film made by the Black Audio and Film 
Collective during the uprisings of 1985, in the Handsworth district of 



Birmingham, England. Shot in the midst of the uprising, it is haunted 
by two moments: the arrival of the migrant population in the 1950s, 
and the emergence of a black British peoples in the diaspora. And the 
film itself is part of the emergence of a black British cultural politics. 
Between the moments of the migrants' arrival and the minorities' emerg- 
ence spans the filmic time of a continual displacement of narrative. It 
is the time of oppression and resistance; the time of the performance of 
the riots, cut across by the pedagogical knowledges of State institutions. 
The racism of statistics and documents and newspapers is interrupted 
by the perplexed living of Handsworth songs. 

Two_ memories ^repeat incessantly to translate the living perplexity of 
history into the time of migrationr first; the arrival of uTe~sRp~laden 
wiflTjrj ^grants from the ex<olonIes just steppmg~5ff the-bo a t . alwa ys 
justjmergmg - as in the fantasmatic scenario of Freud's family romance 
- into theJ and where the streets are paved with gold. This is f ollowed 
byjfflother image of the perplexity and power of an emergent peoples, 
caught in the shot of a dreadlocked rastaf arian cutting a swathe through 
a posse of policemen during the uprising. It is a memory that flashes 
incessantly through the film: a dangerous repetition in the present of 
the cinematic frame; the edge of human life that translates what will 
come next and what has gone before in the writing of History. Listen 
to the repetition of the time and space of the peoples that I have been 
trying to create: 

In time we will demand the impossible in order to wrestle from it 
that which is possible, In time the streets will claim me without 
apology, In time I will be right to say that there are no stories . . . 
in the riots only the ghosts of other stories. 

The symbolic demand of cultural difference constitutes a history in the 
midst of the uprising. From the desire of the possible in the impossible, 
in the historic present of the riots, emerge the ghostly repetitions of 
other stories, the record of other uprisings of people of colour: Broad- 
water Farm; Southall; St Paul's, Bristol. In the ghostly repetition of the 
black woman of Lozells Rd, Handsworth, who sees the future in 
the past. There are no stories in the riots, only the ghosts of other 
stories, she told a local journalist: 'You can see Enoch Powell in 1969, 
Michael X in 1965.' And from the gathering repetition she builds a 

From across the film listen to another woman who speaks another 
historical language. From the archaic world of metaphor, caught in the 
movement of the people she translates the time of change into the ebb 
and flow of language's unmastering rhythm: the successive time of 
instantaneity, battening against the straight horizons, and then the flow 
of water and words: 



I walk with my back to the sea, horizons straight ahead 

Wave the sea way and back it comes, 

Step and I slip on it. 

Crawling in my journey's footsteps 

When I stand it fills my bones. 

The perplexity of the living must not be understood as some existen- 
tial, ethical anguish of the empiricism of everyday life in 'the eternal 
living present', that gives liberal discourse a rich social reference in 
moral and cultural relativism. Nor must it be too hastily associated with 
the spontaneous and primordial presence of the people in the liberatory 
discourses of populist ressentiment. In the construction of this discourse 
of 'living perplexity' that I am attempting to produce we must remember 
that the space of human life is pushed to its incommensurable extreme; 
the judgement of living is perplexed; the topos of the narrative is nei- 
ther the transcendental, pedagogical idea of History nor the institution 
of the State, but a strange temporality of the repetition of the one in the 
other - an oscillating movement in the governing present of cultural 

Minority discourse sets the act of emergence in the antagonistic in- 
between of image and sign, the accumulative and . l^^gdj^gKy^resertce 
and proxy. It conte sts genealogies of 'origin' that lead to claims for 
cultural supremacy and historical priority. Minority discourse acknow- 
ledges the status of national culture - and the people - as a contentious, 
performative space of the perplexity of the living in the midst of the 
pedagogical representations of the fullness of life. Now there is no 
reason to believe that such marks of difference cannot inscribe a 'history* 
of the pe ople, or become the gathering points of political solidarity. They 
will not, however, celebrate the monumentality of historicist memory, 
the sociological totality of society, or the homogeneity of cultural experi- 
ence. Tbejgjggo^^jrf the minority leveatej^jnsu^c^table ambiv- 
alence that structures the equivocal movement of historical time. "How 
does one encounter the past as an anteriority that continually introduces 
an othe rness or alterity into the present? How does one then narrate 
the present as a form of contemporaneity that is neither punctual nor 
synchronous? In what historical time do such configurations of cultural 
difference assume forms of cultural and political authority? 


The narrative of the modern nation can only begin, Benedict Anderson 
suggests in Imagined Commiimt^Ton^e ffie~notion of the 'arbitrariness 
of the sig n^ fissures the sacral ontology of the medieval world and'ifc 
overwhelming visual and aural imaginary. By 'separating language from 



reality', Anderson suggests, the arbitrary signifier enables a national 
temporality of the 'meanwhile', a form of homogeneous .eBapJ^t-fene. 
This is the time of cultural modernity that supersedes the_p>rpphetic 
notion of simultane ity-along-time. The narrative of the 'meanwhile' per- 
mits 'transverse, cross-time, markecTnot by prefiguirlng~ancl~f u lfiljiient 

Such a form of temporality produces a symbolic structure of the nation 
as "imagined community' which, in keeping with the'scale and"chveTsny 
of the modem nation, works like the pl ot of a realist no vel. The steady 
onward clocking of calendrical time, in Anderson's words, gives the 
imagined world of the nation a sociological solidity; it links together 
diverse acts and actors on the national stage who are entirely unaware 
of each other, except as a function of this synchronicity of time which 
is not prefigurative but a form of civil contemporaneity realized in the 
fullness of time. 

Anderson historicizes the emergence of the arbitrary sign of language 
- and here he is talking of the process of signification rather than the 
progress of narrative - as that which had to come before the narrative 
of the modem nation could begin. In decentring the prophetic visibility 
and simultaneity of medieval systems of dynastic representation, the 
homogeneous and horizontal community of modem society can emerge. 
The people-nation, however divided and split, can still assume, in the 
function of the social imaginary, a form of democratic 'anonymity'. 
There is, however, a profound ascesis in the anonymity of the modem 
community and its temporality, the meanwhile that structures its narra- 
tive consciousness, as Anderson explains it. It must be stressed that the 
narrative of the imagined community is constructed from two incom- 
mensurable temporalities of meaning that threaten its coherence. 

The space of the arbitrary sign, its separation of language and reality, 
enables Anderson to emphasize the imaginary or mythical nature of the 
society of the nation. However, the differential time of the arbitrary sign 
is neither synchronous nor serial._In.ihe„ separation- oOanguage_and 
reality. - in the process of signification - there is no epistemological 
equivalence of subject and object, no possibility of the mimesis j)fjnean- 
ing. The sign temporalizes the iterative difference that circulates within 

cally within narrative as a homogeneous empty rime. Such a temporality 
is antithetical to the alterity of the sign which, in keeping with my 
account of the 'supplementary question' of cultural signification, alien- 
ates the synchronicity of the imagined community. From the place of 
the 'meanwhile', where cultural homogeneity and democratic anonymity 
articulate the national community, there emerges a more instantaneous 
and subaltern voice of the people, minority discourses that speak 
betwixt and between times and places. 



Having initially located the imagined community of the nation in the 
homogeneous time of realist narrative, towards the end of his work 
Anderson abandons the 'meanwhile' - his pedagogical temporality of 
the people. In order to represent the people as a performative discourse 
of public identification, a process he calls 'unisonance', Anderson resorts 
to another time of narrative. Unisonance is 'that special kind of contem- 
poraneous community which language alone suggests', 47 and this patri- 
otic speech-act is not written in the synchronic, novelistic 'meanwhile', 
but inscribed in a sudden primordiality of meaning that 'looms up 
imperceptibly out of a horizonless past' (my emphasis). 48 This movement 
of the sign cannot simply be historicized in the emergence of the realist 
narrative of the novel. 

It is at this point in the narrative of national time that the unisonant 
discourse produces its collective identification of the people, not as some 
transcendent national identity, but in a language of doubleness that 
arises from the ambivalent splitting of the pedagogical and the perform- 
ative. The people emerge in an uncanny moment of their 'present' 
history as 'a ghostly intimation of simultaneity across homogeneous 
empty time'. The weight of the words of the national discourse comes 
from an 'as it were - Ancestral Englishness'. 49 It is precisely this repetitive 
time of the alienating anterior - rather than origin - that Levi-Strauss 
writes of, when, in explaining the 'unconscious unity' of signification, 
he suggests that 'language can only have arisen all at once. Things 
cannot have begun to signify gradually' (my emphasis). 50 In that sudden 
timelessness of 'all at once', there is no synchrony but a temporal break, 
no simultaneity but a spatial disjunction. 

The 'meanwhile' is the sign of the processual and performative, not 
a simple present continuous, but the present as succession without 
synchrony - the iteration of the sign of the modem nation-space. In 
embedding the meanwhile of the national narrative, where the people 
live their plural and autonomous lives within homogeneous empty 
time, Anderson misses the alienating and iterative time of the sign. He 
naturalizes the momentary 'suddenness' of the arbitrary sign, its pul- 
sation, by making it part of the historical emergence of the novel, a 
narrative of synchrony. But the suddenness of the signifier is incessant; 
instantaneous rather than simultaneous. It introduces a signifying space 
of iteration rather than a progressive or linear seriality. The 'meanwhile' 
turns into quite another time, or ambivalent sign, of the national people. 
If it is the time of the people's anonymity it is also the space of the 
nation's anomie. 

How are we to understand this anteriority of signification as a position 
of social and cultural knowledge, this time of the 'before' of signification, 
which will not issue harmoniously into the present like the continuity 
of tradition - invented or otherwise? It has its own national history in 



Renan's 'Qu'est ce qu'une nation?' which has been the starting point 
for a number of the most influential accounts of the modern emergence 
of the nation - Kamenka, Gellner, Benedict Anderson, Tzvetan Todorov. 
In Renan's argument the pedagogical function of modernity - the will 
to be a nation - introduces into the enunciative present of the nation a 
differential and iterative time of reinscription that interests me. Renan 
argues that the non-naturalist principle of the modem nation is repre- 
sented in the will to nationhood - not in the prior identities of race, 
language or territory. It is the will that unifies historical memory and 
secures present-day consent. The will is, indeed, the articulation of the 

A nation's existence is, if you will pardon the metaphor, a daily 
plebiscite, just as an individual's existence is a perpetual affir- 
mation of life The wish of nations is, all in all, the sole legit- 
imate criteria, the one to which one must always return. 51 

Does the will to nationhood circulate in the same temporality as the 
desire of the daily plebiscite? Could it be that the iterative plebiscite 
decentres the totalizing pedagogy of the will? Renan's will is itself the 
site of a strange forgetting of the history of the nation's past: the violence 
involved in establishing the nation's writ. It is this forgetting - the 
signification of a minus in the origin - that constitutes the beginning of 
the nation's narrative. It is the syntactical and rhetorical arrangement 
of this argument that is more illuminating than any frankly historical 
or ideological reading. Listen to the complexity of this form of forgetting 
which is the moment in which the national will is articulated: 'yet every 
French citizen has to have forgotten [is obliged to have forgotten] Saint 
Bartholomew's Night's Massacre, or the massacres that took place in 
the Midi in the thirteenth century.' 52 

It is through this syntax of forgetting - or being obliged to forget - 
that the problematic identification of a national people becomes visible. 
The national subject is produced in that place where the daily plebiscite 
- the unitary number - circulates in the grand narrative of the will. 
However, the equivalence of will and plebiscite, the identity of part and 
whole, past and present, is cut across by the 'obligation to forget', or 
forgetting to remember. The anteriority of the nation, signified in the 
will to forget, entirely changes our understanding of the pastness of 
the past, and the synchronous present of the will to nationhood. We are 
in a discursive space similar to that moment of unisonance in Ander- 
son's argument when the homogeneous empty time of the nation's 
'meanwhile' is cut across by the ghostly simultaneity of a temporality 
of doubling. To be obliged to forget - in the construction of the national 
present - is not a question of historical memory; it is the construction 
of a discourse on society that performs the problem of totalizing the 



people and unifying the national will. That strange time - forgetting to 
remember - is a place of 'partial identification' inscribed in the daily 
plebiscite which represents the performative discourse of the people. 
Renan's pedagogical return to the will to nationhood is both constituted 
and confronted by the circulation of numbers in the plebiscite. This 
breakdown in the identity of the will is another instance of the sup- 
plementary narrative of nationness that 'adds to' without 'adding up'. 
May I remind you of Lefort's suggestive description of the ideological 
impact of suffrage in the nineteenth century where the danger of num- 
bers was considered almost more threatening than the mob: 'the idea 
of number as such is opposed to the idea of the substance of society. 
Number breaks down unity, destroys identity.' 53 It is the repetition of 
the national sign as numerical succession rather than synchrony that 
reveals that strange temporality of disavowal implicit in the national 
memory. Being obliged to forget becomes the basis for remembering the 
nation, peopling it anew, imagining the possibility of other contending 
and liberating forms of cultural identification. 

Anderson fails to locate the alienating time of the arbitrary sign in his 
naturalized, nationalized space of the imagined community. Although he 
borrows his notion of the homogeneous empty time of the nation's 
modem narrative from Walter Benjamin, he misses that profound ambiv- 
alence that Benjamin places deep within the utterance of the narrative of 
modernity. Here, as the pedagogies of life and will contest the perplexed 
histories of the living people, their cultures of survival and resistance, 
Benjamin introduces a non-synchronous, incommensurable gap in the 
midst of storytelling. From this split in the utterance, from the unbe- 
guiled, belated novelist there emerges an ambivalence in the narration 
of modem society that repeats, uncounselled and unconsolable, in the 
midst of plenitude: 

The novelist has isolated himself. The birthplace of the novel is 
the solitary individual, who is no longer able to express himself 
by giving examples of his most important concerns, is himself 
uncounselled and cannot counsel others. To write a novel means 
to carry the incommensurable to extremes in the representation of 
human life. In the midst of life's fullness, and through the represen- 
tation of this fullness, the novel gives evidence of the profound 
perplexity of the living. 54 — *r 

It is from this incommensurability in the midst of the everyday that the 
nation speaks its disjunctive narrative. From the margins of modernity 
at the insurmountable extremes of storytelling, we encounter the ques- 
tion of cultural difference as the perplexity of living and writing the 




Cultural difference must not be understood as the free play of polarities 
and pluralities in the homogeneous empty time of the national com- 
munity. The jarring of meanings and values generated in the process of 
cultural interpretation is an effect of the perplexity of living in the 
liminal spaces of national society that I have tried to trace. Cultural 
difference, as a form of intervention, participates in a logic of sup- 
plementary subversion similar to the strategies of minority discourse. 
The question of cultural difference faces us jvyith_ a disposition of knowl- 
edges or a distribution of practices that exist beside each other, dBseits 
designating a form of social contradiction or antagonism that has to be 
negotiated rather than sublated. The difference between disjunctive sites 
and representations of social life have to be articulated without sur- 
mounting the incommensurable meanings and judgements that are pro- 
duced within the process of transcultural negotiation. 
_The_analyiicx>i cultural diff^enc«.irjj^rvenesioJians&)nn.J^.8c^iarip 
of articulation - not simply to disclose the rationale of political discrimi- 
nation. It changes the position of enunciation and the relations^ of 
address within it; not only what is said but where it is said; not simply 
the logic of articulation but the topos of enunciation. The aim of cultural 
difference is to rearticulate the sum of knowledge from the perspective 
of the signifying position of the minority that resists totalization - the 
repetition that will not return as the same, the minus-in-origin that 
results in political and discursive strategies where adding to does not 
add up but serves to disturb the calculation of power and knowledge, 
producing other spaces of subaltern signification. The subject of Jhe 
discourse of cultural difference is dialogical or transferential in the style 
of psychoanalysis. It is constituted through the locus of the Other which 
suggests both that the object of identification . Js : ^ambivalent, and, more 
significantly, that the agency of identification is never pure or holistic 
but always" constituted in a process of substitution, displacement or 

Cultural difference does not simply represent the contention between 
oppositional contents or antagonistic traditions of cultural value. Cul- 
tural difference introduces into the process of cultural judgement and 
interpretation that sudden shock of the successive, non-synchronic time 
of signification, or the interruption of the supplementary question that 
I elaborated above. The very possibility of cultural contestation, the 
ability to shift the ground of knowledges, or to engage in the 'war of 
position', marks the establishment of new forms of meaning, and 
strategies of identification. Designations of cultural difference interpel- 
late forms of identity which, because of their continual implication in 
other symbolic systems, are always 'incomplete' or open to cultural 



translation. The uncanny structure of cultural difference is close to Levi- 
Strauss's understanding of 'the unconscious as providing the common 
and specific character of social facts . . . not because it harbours our 
most secret selves but because ... it enables us to coincide with forms 
of activity which are both at once ours and other' (my emphasis). 55 

It is not adequate simply to become aware of the semiotic systems 
that produce the signs of culture and their dissemination, "Much more 
significantly, we are faced with the challenge of reading, into the present 
of a specific cultural performance, the traces of all those diverse disci- 
plinary discourses and institutions of knowledge that constitute the 
condition and contexts of culture. As I have been arguing throughout 
thisT chapter, such a critical process requires a cultural temporality that 
is both disjunctive and capable of articulating, in Levi-Strauss's words, 
'forms of activity which are both at once ours and other'. 

I use the word 'traces' to suggest a particular kind of interdisciplinary 
discursive transformation that the analytic of cultural difference 
demands. To enter into the interdisciplinarity of cultural texts means 
that we cannot contextualize the emergent cultural form by locating it 
in terms of some pre-given discursive causality or origin. We must 
always keep open a supplementary space for the articulation of cultural 
knowledges that are adjacent and adjunct but not necessarily accumulat- 
ive, teleological or dialectical. The 'difference' of cultural knowledge 
that 'adds to' but does not 'add up' is the enemy of the implicit generaliz- 
ation of knowledge or the implicit homogenization of experience, which 
Claude Lefort defines as the major strategies of containment and closure 
in modem bourgeois ideology. 

Interdisciplinarity is the acknowledgement of the emergent sign of 
cultural difference produced in the ambivalent movement between the 
pedagogical and performative address. It is never simply the harmoni- 
ous addition of contents or contexts that augment the positivity of a 
pre-given disciplinary or symbolic presence. In the restless drive for 
cultural translation, hybrid sites of meaning open up a cleavage in the 
language of culture which suggests that the similitude of the symbol as 
it plays across cultural sites must not obscure the fact that repetition of 
the sign is, in each specific social practice, both different and differential. 
This disjunctive play of symbol and sign makes interdisciplinarity an 
instance of the borderline moment of translation that Walter Benjamin 
describes as the 'foreignness of languages'. 56 The 'foreignness' of lan- 
guage is the nucleus of the untranslatable that goes beyond the transfer- 
ral of subject matter between cultural texts or practices. The transfer of 
meaning can never be total between systems of meaning, or within 
them, for 'the language of translation envelops its content like a royal 
robe with ample folds . . . [it] signifies a more exalted language than its 
own and thus remains unsuited to its content, overpowering and alien.' 57 



Too often it is the slippage of signification that is celebrated in the 
articulation of difference, at the expense of this disturbing process of 
the overpowering of content by the signifier. The erasure of content 
in the invisible but insistent structure of linguistic difference does not 
lead us to some general, formal acknowledgement of the function of 
the sign. The ill-fitting robe of language alienates content in the sense 
that it deprives it of an immediate access to a stable or holistic reference 
'outside' itself. It suggests that social significations are themselves being 
constituted in the very act of enunciation, in the disjunctive, non-equiva- 
lent split of SnoncS and enonciation, thereby undermining the division of 
social meaning into an inside and outside. Content becomes the alienat- 
ing mise-en-scene that reveals the signifying structure of linguistic differ- 
ence: a process never seen for itself, but only glimpsed in the gap or 
the gaping of Benjamin's royal robe, or in the brush between the simili- 
tude of the symbol and the difference of the sign. 

Benjamin's argument can be elaborated for a theory of cultural differ- 
ence. It is only by engaging with what he calls the 'purer linguistic air' 
- the sign as anterior to any site of meaning - that the reality-effect of 
content can be overpowered which then makes all cultural languages 
'foreign' to themselves. And it is from this foreign perspective that it 
becomes possible to inscribe the specific locality of cultural systems - 
their incommensurable differences - and through that apprehension 
of difference, to perform the act of cultural translation. In the act of 
translation the 'given' content becomes alien and estranged; and that, 
in its turn, leaves the language of translation Aufgabe, always confronted 
by its double, the untranslatable - alien and foreign. 


Atthis point I must give way to the vox populi: to a relatively unspoken 
tradition of the people of the pagus - coloitials, jjqst^^ 
minorities - wandering peoples who will not be contained within the 
Heim of the national culture and its unisonant discourse, but are them- 
selves the marks of a shifting boundary that alienates the frontiers of 
the modem nation. They are Marx's reserve army of migrant labour 
who by speaking the foreignness of language split the patriotic voice of 
unisonance and become Nietzsche's mobile army of metaphors, 
metonyms and anthropomorphisms. They articulate the death-in-life of 
the idea of the 'imagined community' of the nation; the worn-out meta- 
phors of the resplendent national life now circulate in another narrative 
of entry-permits and passports and work-permits that at once preserve 
and proliferate, bind and breach the human rights of the nation. Across 
the accumulation of the history of the West there are those people who 
speak the encrypted discourse of the melancholic and the migrant. 



Theirs is a voice that opens up a void in some ways similar to what 
Abraham and Torok describe as a radical anti-metaphoric: 'the destruction 
in fantasy, of the very act that makes metaphor possible - the act of 
putting the original oral void into words, the act of introjection'. 58 The 
lost object - the national Heim - is repeated in the void that at once 
prefigures and pre-empts the 'unisonant' which makes it unheimlich; 
analogous to the incorporation that becomes the daemonic double of 
introjection and identification. The object of loss is written across the 
bodies of the people, as it repeats in the silence that speaks the foreign- 
ness of language. A Turkish worker in Germany, in the words of John 

His migration is like an event in a dream dreamt by another. The 
migrant's intentionality is permeated by historical necessities of 
which neither he nor anybody he meets is aware. That is why it 

is as if his life were dreamt by another Abandon the 

metaphor. . . . They watch the gestures made and leam to imitate 
them . . . the repetition by which gesture is laid upon gesture, 
precisely but inexorably, the pile of gestures being stacked minute 
by minute, hour by hour is exhausting. The rate of work allows 
no time to prepare for the gesture. The body loses its mind in 
the gesture. How opaque the disguise of words. . . . He treated the 
sounds of the unknown language as if they were silence. To break 

^^E3aMteF^lii^ rWBtt1 y words of the new language. 
But to his amazement at first, their meaning changed as he spoke 
them. He asked for coffee. What the words signified to the barman 
was that he was asking for coffee in a bar where he should not be 
asking for coffee. He leamt girl. What the word meant when he 
used it, was that he was a randy dog. Is it possible to see through 
the opaqueness of the words? 59 

Through the opaqueness of words we confront the historical memory 
of the Western nation which is 'obliged to forget'. Having begun this 
chapter with the nation's need for metaphor, I want to turn now to the 
desolate silences of the wandering people; to that 'oral void' that 
emerges when the Turk abandons the metaphor of a heimlich national 
culture: for the Turkish immigrant the final return is mythic, we are 
told, 'It is the stuff of longing and prayers ... as imagined it never 
happens. There is no final return.' 60 

In the repetition of gesture after gesture, the dream dreamt by another, 
the mythical return, it is not simply the figure of repetition that is 
unheimlich, but the Turk's desire to survive, to name, to fix - which 
is unnamed by the gesture itself. The gesture continually overlaps and 
accumulates, without adding up to a knowledge of work or labour. 
Without the language that bridges knowledge and act, without the 



objectification of the social process, the Turk leads the life of the double, 
the automaton. It is not the struggle of master and slave, but in the 
mechanical reproduction of gestures a mere imitation of life and labour. 
The opacity of language fails to translate or break through his silence 
and 'the body loses its mind in the gesture'. The gesture repeats and 
the body returns now, shrouded not in silence but eerily untranslated 
in the racist site of its enunciation: to say the word 'girl',is to be a randy 
dog, to ask for coffee is to encounter the colour bar. 

The image of the body returns where there should only be its trace, 
as sign or letter. The Turk as dog is neither simply hallucination or 
phobia; it is a more complex form of social fantasy. Its ambivalence 
cannot be read as some simple racist/ sexist projection where the white 
man's guilt is projected on the black man; his anxiety contained in the 
body of the white woman whose body screens (in both senses of 
the word) the racist fantasy. What such a reading leaves out is pre- 
cisely the axis of identification - the desire of a man (white) for a man 
(black) - that underwrites that utterance and produces the paranoid 
'delusion of reference', the man-dog that confronts the racist language 
with its own alterity, its foreignness. 

The silent Other of gesture and failed speech becomes what Freud 
calls that 'haphazard member of the herd', 61 the Stranger, whose lan- 
guageless presence evokes an archaic anxiety and aggressivity by 
impeding the search for narcissistic love-objects in which the subject 
can rediscover himself, and upon which the group's amour propre is 
based. If the immigrants' desire to 'imitate' language produces one void 
in the articulation of the social space - making present the opacity of 
language, its untranslatable residue - then the racist fantasy, which 
disavows the ambivalence of its desire, opens up another void in the 
present. The migrant's silence elicits those racist fantasies of purity and 
persecution that must always return from the Outside, to estrange the 
present of the life of the metropolis; to make it strangely familiar. In 
the process by which the paranoid position finally voids the place 
from where it speaks, we begin to see another history of the German 

If the experience of the Turkish Gastarbeiter represents the radical 
incommensurability of translation, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses 
attempts to redefine the boundaries of the Western nation, so that the 
'foreignness of languages' becomes the inescapable cultural condition 
for the enunciation of the mother-tongue. In the 'Rosa Diamond' section 
of 77k Satanic Verses Rushdie seems to suggest that it is only through 
the process of dissemiNah'on - of meaning, time, peoples, cultural 
boundaries and historical traditions - that the radical alterity of the 
national culture will create new forms of living and writing: 'The trouble 



with the Engenglish is that their hiss hiss history happened overseas, 
so they do do don't know what it means.' 62 

S. S. Sisodia the soak - known also as Whisky Sisodia - stutters these 
words as part of his litany of 'what's wrong with the English'. The 
spirit of his words fleshes out the argument of this chapter. I have 
suggested that the atavistic national past and its language of archaic 
belonging marginalize the present of the 'modernity' of the national 
culture, rather like suggesting that history happens 'outside' the centre 
and core. More specifically I have argued that appeals to the national 
past must also be seen as the anterior space of signification that 'singu- 
larizes' the nation's cultural totality. It introduces a form of alterity of 
address that Rushdie embodies in the double narrative figures of Gibreel 
Farishta/Saladin Chamcha, or Gibreel Farishta/Sir Henry Diamond, 
which suggests that the national narrative is the site of an ambivalent 
identification; a margin of the uncertainty of cultural meaning that may 
become the space for an agonistic minority position. In the midst of 
life's fullness, and through the representation of this fullness, the novel 
gives evidence of the profound perplexity of the living. 

Gifted with phantom sight, Rosa Diamond, for whom repetition had 
become a comfort in her antiquity, represents the English Heim or home- 
land. The pageant of 900-year-old history passes through her frail trans- 
lucent body and inscribes itself, in a strange splitting of her language, 
'the well-worn phrases, unfinished business, grandstand view, made her 
feel solid, unchanging, sempiternal, instead of the creature of cracks and 
absences she knew herself to be.' 63 Constructed from the well-worn 
pedagogies and pedigrees of national unity - her vision of the Battle of 
Hastings is the anchor of her being - and, at the same time, patched 
and fractured in the incommensurable perplexity of the nation's living, 
Rosa Diamond's green and pleasant garden is the spot where Gibreel 
Farishta lands when he falls out from the belly of the Boeing over 
sodden, southern England. 

Gibreel masquerades in the clothes of Rosa's dead husband, Sir Henry 
Diamond, ex-colonial landowner, and through his postcolonial mimicry, 
exacerbates the discursive split between the image of a continuist 
national history and the 'cracks and absences' that she knew herself to 
be. What emerges, at one level, is a popular tale of secret, adulterous 
Argentinian amours, passion in the pampas with Martin de la Cruz. 
What is more significant and in tension with the exoticism, is the emerg- 
ence of a hybrid national narrative that turns the nostalgic past into the 
disruptive 'anterior' and displaces the historical present - opens it up 
to other histories and incommensurable narrative subjects. The cut or 
split in enunciation emerges with its iterative temporality to reinscribe 
the figure of Rosa Diamond in a new and terrifying avatar. Gibreel, the 
migrant hybrid in masquerade, as Sir Henry Diamond, mimics the 



collaborative colonial ideologies of patriotism and patriarchy, depriving 
those narratives of their imperial authority. Gibreel's returning gaze 
crosses out the synchronous history of England, the essentialist mem- 
ories of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings. In the middle 
of an account of her punctual domestic routine with Sir Henry - sherry 
always at six - Rosa Diamond is overtaken by another time and memory 
of narration and through the 'grandstand view' of imperial history you 
can hear its cracks and absences speak with another voice: 

Then she began without bothering with once upon atime and 
whether it was all true or false he could see the fierce energy that 
was going into the telling . . . this memory jumbled rag-bag of 
material was in fact the very heart of her, her self-portrait. ... So 
that it was not possible to distinguish memories from wishes, 
guilty reconstructions from confessional truths, because even on 
her deathbed Rosa Diamond did not know how to look her history 
in the eye. 64 

And what of Gibreel Farishta? Well, he is the mote in the eye of 
history, its blind spot that will not let the nationalist gaze settle centrally. 
His mimicry of colonial masculinity and mimesis allows the absences 
of national history to speak in the ambivalent, rag-bag narrative. But it 
is precisely this 'narrative sorcery' that established Gibreel's own re- 
entry into contemporary England. As the belated postcolonial he mar- 
ginalizes and singularizes the totality of national culture. He is the 
history that happened elsewhere, overseas; his postcolonial, migrant 
presence does not evoke a harmonious patchwork of cultures, but articu- 
lates the narrative of cultural difference which can never let the national 
history look at itself narcissistically in the eye. 

For the liminality of the Western nation is the shadow of its own 
finitude: the colonial space played out in the imaginative geography of 
the metropolitan space; the repetition or return of the postcolonial 
migrant to alienate the holism of history. The postcolonial space is now 
'supplementary' to the metropolitan centre; it stands in a subaltern, 
adjunct relation that doesn't aggrandize the presence of the West but 
redraws its frontiers in the menacing, agonistic boundary of cultural 
difference that never quite adds up, always less than one nation and 

From this splitting of time and narrative emerges a strange, empower- 
ing knowledge for the migrant that is at once schizoid and subversive. 
In his guise as the Archangel Gibreel he sees the bleak history of the 
metropolis: 'the angry present of masks and parodies, stifled and twisted 
by the insupportable, unrejected burden of its past, staring into the 
bleakness of its impoverished future'. 65 From Rosa Diamond's decentred 



narrative 'without bothering with once upon atime' Gibreel becomes - 
however insanely - the principle of avenging repetition: 

These powerless English! - Did they not think that their history 
would return to haunt them? - 'The native is an oppressed person 

whose permanent dream is to become the persecutor' (Fanon) 

He would make this land anew. He was the Archangel, Gibreel - 
And I'm back. 66 

If the lesson of Rosa's narrative is that the national memory is always 
the site of the hybridity of histories and the displacement of narratives, 
then through Gibreel, the avenging migrant, we learn the ambivalence 
of cultural difference: it is the articulation through incommensurability 
that structures all narratives of identification, and all acts of cultural 

He was joined to the adversary, their arms locked around one 

another's bodies, mouth to mouth, head to tail No more of 

these England induced ambiguities: those Biblical-satanic con- 
fusions . . . Quran 18:50 there it was as plain as the day. . . . How 

much more practical, down to earth comprehensible Iblis/Shai- 

tan standing for darkness; Gibreel for the light O most devilish 

and slippery of cities Well then the trouble with the English 

was their, Their - In a word Gibreel solemnly pronounces, that 

most naturalised sign of cultural difference The trouble with 

the English was their ... in a word . . . their weather. 67 


To end with the English weather is to invoke, at once, the most change- 
able and immanent signs of national difference. It encourages memories 
of the 'deep' nation crafted in chalk and limestone; the quilted downs; 
the moors menaced by the wind; the quiet cathedral towns; that corner 
of a foreign field that is forever England. The English weather also 
revives memories of its daemonic double: the heat and dust of India; 
the dark emptiness of Africa; the tropical chaos that was deemed des- 
potic and ungovernable and therefore worthy of the civilizing mission. 
These imaginative geographies that spanned countries and empires are 
changing, those imagined communities that played on the unisonant 
boundaries of the nation are singing with different voices. If I began 
with the scattering of the people across countries, I want to end with 
their gathering in the city. The return of the diasporic; the postcolonial. 

Handsworth Songs; Rushdie's tropicalized London, grotesquely 
renamed Ellowen Deeowen in the migrant's mimicry: it is to the city that 
the migrants, the minorities, the diasporic come to change the history 



of the nation. If I have suggested that the people emerge in the fini- 
tude of the nation, marking the liminality of cultural identity, producing 
the double-edged discourse of social territories and temporalities, then 
in the West, and increasingly elsewhere, it is the city which provides 
the space in which emergent identifications and new social movements 
of the people are played out. It is there that, in our time, the perplex- 
ity of the living is most acutely experienced. 

In the narrative graftings of my chapter I have attempted no general 
theory, only a certain productive tension of the perplexity of language 
in various locations of living. I have taken the measure of Fanon's 
occult instability and Kristeva's parallel times into the 'incommensurable 
narrative' of Benjamin's modem storyteller to suggest no salvation, but 
a strange cultural survival of the people. For it is by living on the 
borderline of history and language, on the limits of race and gender, 
that we are in a position to translate the differences between them into 
a kind of solidarity. I want to end with a much translated fragment 
from Walter Benjamin's essay, 'The task of the translator'. I hope it will 
now be read from the nation's edge, through the sense of the city, from 
the periphery of the people, in culture's transnational dissemination: 

Fragments of a vessel in order to be articulated together must 
follow one another in the smallest details although they need not 
be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of 
making itself similar to the meaning of the original, it must lov- 
ingly and in detail, form itself according to the manner of meaning 
of the original, to make them both recognizable as the broken 
fragments of the greater language, just as fragments are the 
broken parts of a vessel. 68 




The question of agency 

[F]or some of us the principle of indeterminism is what makes the con- 
scious freedom of man fathomable. 

Jacques Derrida, 'My chances' /'Mes chances' 1 


Postqalonial criticism bears witness to the unequal and uneven forces 
of cultural representation involved in the contest for political and social 
authority within the modem world order. PostcctoiaJL^geigpectives 
emerge from the colonial testimony of Third World countries and the 
discourses of 'minorities' within the geopolitical divisions of East and 
West, North and South. They intervene in those ideological discourses 
of modernity that attempt to give a hegemonic 'normality' to the uneven 
development and the differential, often disadvantaged, histories of 
nations, graces, communities, peoples. They formulate their critical 
revisions around issues of cultural difference, social authority, and politi- 
cal discrimination in order to reveal the antagonistic and ambivalent 
moments within the 'rationalizations' of modernity. To bend Jurgen 
Habermas to our purposes, we could also argue that the postcolonial 
project, at the most general theoretical level, seeks to explore those social 
pathologies - 'loss of meaning, conditions of anomie' - that no longer 
simply 'cluster around class antagonism, [but] break up into widely 
scattered historical contingencies'. 2 

These contingencies are often the grounds of historical necessity for 
elaborating empowering strategies of emancipation, staging other social 
antagonisms. To reconstitute the discourse of cultural difference 
demands not simply a change of cultural contents and symbols; a 
replacement within the same time-frame of representation is never 
adequate. It requires a radical revision of the social temporality in which 
emergent histories may be written, the rearticulation of the 'sign' in 
which cultural identities may be inscribed. And contingency as the 
signifying time of counter-hegemonic strategies is not a celebration of 



'lack' or 'excess' or a self-perpetuating series of negative ontologies. 
Such 'indeterminism' is the mark of the conf lictual yet productive space 
in which the arbitrariness of the sign of cultural signification emerges 
within the regulated boundaries of social discourse. 

In this salutary sense, a range of contemporary critical theories suggest 
that it is from those who have suffered the sentence of history - subju- 
gation, domination, diaspora, displacement - that we leam our most 
enduring lessons for living and thinking. There is even a growing con- 
viction that the affective experience of social marginality - as it emerges 
in non-canonical cultural forms - transforms our critical strategies. It 
fnrrgcjjg tn mnfrmit the_jc^cepjLgjLgultuje outside objets dart or beyond 
t hej^an oni za t ion of the ' idea ' o f aesthetics, to engage with culture as an 
uneven, incomplete production of meaning and value, often composed 
of^Sc5^ffiensui^le :: 3emand^and practices, produced in the act of 
social survival. Culture reaches out to create a symbolic textuality, to 
givelthe alienating everyday an aura of selfhood, a promise of pleasure. 
Th e tra nsmission of cultures of survival does not occur in the ordered 
musee imaginaire of national cultures with their claims to the continuity 
of an authentic 'past' and a living 'present' - whether this scale of value 
is preseryedIMZthe~pfgah]Eist^ traditions of romanticism or 

within the more universal proportions of classicism. 

Culture as a strategy of survival is both transnational and trans- 
latioBa^Tnslransnational because contemporary postcolonial discourses 
are rooted in specific histories of cultural displacement, whether they are 
the 'middle passage' of slavery and indenture, the 'voyage out' of the 
civilizing mission, the fraught accommodation of Third World migration 
to the West after the Second World War, or the traffic of economic 
and political refugees within and outside the Third World. Culture 
is translational because such spatial histories of displacement - now 
accompanied by the territorial ambitions of 'global' media technologies 

- make the question of how culture signifies, or what is signified by 
culture, a rather complex issue. 

It becomes crucial to distinguish between the semblance and simili- 
tude of the symbols across diverse cultural experiences - literature, art, 
music ritual, life, death - and the social specificity of each of these 
productions of meaning as they circulate as signs within specific contex- 
tual locations and social systems of value. The transnational dimension 
of cultural tranf ormation - migration, diaspora, displacement, relocation 

- makes the process of cultural translation a complex form of signifi- 
cation. The natural(ized), unifying discourse of 'nation', 'peoples', or 
authentic 'folk' tradition, those embedded myths of culture's particu- 
larity, cannot be readily referenced. The great, though unsettling, advan- 
tage of this position is that it makes you increasingly aware of the 
construction of culture and the invention of tradition. 



The postcolonial perspective - as it is being developed by cultural 
h storians and 1 terary theorists - departs from the traditions of the 
sociology of underdevelopment or 'dependency' theory. As a mode of 
analysis, it attempts to revise those nationalist or 'nativist' pedagogies 
that set up the relation of Third World and First World in a binary 
structure of opposition. The postcolonial perspective resists the attempt 
at holistic forms of social &^l|^j^ctt^4t.toi¥$si aTeeogiuirlQrvof-ihe more 
complex cultural and political boundaries that exist on the cusp of these 
ofterTopposed political spheres. 

It is from tWs hyTind location of cultural value - the transnational as 
the translational - that the postcolonial intellectual attempts to elaborate 
a historical and literary project. My growing, conviction has been that 
the encounters and negotiations of differential meanings and values 
witlun "'colonial' ^exfuaH^ discourses and cultural 

p ra&cesTh ave anticipated, avaftt 1ST feRfi^'lKari^TTRe pj^Jepi\aS§,Pi 
signification and judgement that have become current in contemporary 

closure, the. threat to agency, the status of intentionality, the challenge 
to 'totalizing' concepts, to name but a few. 

In general terms, mer e is a colonial contramodejmity at work in the 
eighteenth- and iuneteenth-century matrices of Western modernity' that, 
if acknowledged, would question the historicism that analogically links, 
in a linear narrative, late capitalism and the fragmentary, simulacra!, 
pastiche symptoms of p^stiriodernity. This linking does not account for 
the historical traditions of cultural contingency and textual indetermin- 
acy (as forces of social discourse) generated in the attempt to produce 
an 'enlightened' colonial or postcolonial subject, and it transforms, in 
the process, our understanding of the narrative of modernity and the 
'values' of progress. 

Postcolonial critical discourses J^gguire forms of _j|ialectical minking 
thajfcto jic^disawvLojJsSHite J^^the^ess .(alterity) th^constitutes 
thejsymbolic d omfg ijoLpsychic^and social identi fication s. The incom- 
mensurability of cultural values and priorities that the postcolon al critic 
represents cannot be accommoda ted. within. theories of cultural relativ- 
ism or pluralism The cultural potential of such differential histories has 
led Fredric Jameson to recognize the 'internationalization of the national 
situations' in the postcolonial criticism of Roberto Retamar. This is not an 
absorption of the particular in the general, for the very act of articulating 
cultural differences 'calls us into question fully as much as it acknow- 
ledges the Other. . . neither reducing] the Third World to some homo- 
geneous Other of the West, nor . . . vacuously celebrating] the 
astonishing pluralism of human cultures' (Foreword x -xii). 3 

The historical grounds of such an intellectual tradition are to be found 
in the revisionary impulse that informs many postcolonial thinkers. 



C. L. R. James once remarked, in a public lecture, that the postcolonial 
prerogative consisted in reinterpreting and rewriting the forms and 
effects of an 'older' colonial consciousness from the later experience of 
the cultural displacement that marks the more recent, postwar histories 
of the Western metropolis. A similar process of cultural translation, and 
transvaluation, is evident in Edward Said's assessment of the response 
from disparate postcolonial regions as a 'tremendously energetic attempt 
to engage with the metropolitan world in a common effort at re-inscrib- 
ing, re-interpreting and expanding the sites of intensity and the terrain 
contested with Europe'. 4 

How does the deconstruction of the 'sign', the emphasis on indetermi- 
nism in cultural and political judgement, transform our sense of the 
'subject' of culture and the historical agent of change? If jy^contgst 
the 'grand narratives', then what alternative temporalities jdo we create 
tcTaSHculate the differential (Jameson), contrapuntal (Said), interruptive 
(Spivak) historicities of race, gender, class, nation . within a growing 
transnational culture? Do we neeijQ„rethink the terms in which we 
conceive of community, citizenship, nationality, and the ethics of social 

Jameson's justly famous reading of Conrad's Lord Jim in 77k Political 
Unconscious provides a suitable example of a kind of reading against 
the grain that a postcolonial interpretation demands, when faced with 
attempts to sublate the specific 'interruption', or the interstices, through 
which the colonial text utters its interrogations, its contrapuntal critique. 
Reading Conrad's narrative and ideological contradictions 'as a canceled 
realism . . . like Hegelian Aufhebung', 5 Jameson represents the fundamen- 
tal ambivalences of the ethical (honour /guilt) and the aesthetic 
(premodern/postmodem) as the allegorical restitution of the socially 
concrete subtext of late nineteenth-century rationalization and 
reification. What his brilliant allegory of late capitalism fails to represent 
sufficiently, in Lord Jim for instance, is the specifically colonial address 
of the narrative aporia contained in the ambivalent, obsessive rep- 
etition of the phrase 'He was one of us' as the major trope of social and 
psychic identification throughout the text. The repetition of 'He was one 
of us' reveals the fragile margins of the concepts of Western civility and 
cultural community put under colonial stress; Jim is reclaimed at the 
moment when he is in danger of being cast out, or made outcast, 
manifestly 'not one of us'. Such a discursive ambivalence at the very 
heart of the issue of honour and duty in the colonial service represents 
the liminality, if not the end, of the masculinist, heroic ideal (and 
ideology) of a healthy imperial Englishness - those pink bits on the map 
that Conrad believed were genuinely salvaged by being the preserve of 
English colonization, which served the larger idea, and ideal, of Western 
civil society. 



Such problematic issues are activated within the terms and traditions 
of postcolonial critique as it reinscribes the cultural relations between 
spheres of social antagonism. Current debates in postmodernism ques- 
tion the cunning of modernity - its historical ironies, its disjunctive 
temporalities, its paradoxes of progress, its representational aporia. It 
would profoundly change the values, and judgements, of such interrog- 
ations, if they were open to the argument that metropolitan histories of 
civitas cannot be conceived without evoking the savage colonial ante- 
cedents of the ideals of civility. It also suggests, by implication, that the 
language of rights and obligations, so central to the modem myth of a 
people, must be questioned on the basis of the anomalous and discrimi- 
natory legal and cultural status assigned to migrant, diasporic, and 
refugee populations. Inevitably, they find themselves on the frontiers 
between cultures and nations, often on the other side of the law. 

The postcolonial perspective forces us to rethink the profound limi- 
tations of a consensual and collusive 'liberal' sense of cultural com- 
munity. It insists that cultural and political identity are constructed 
through a process of alterity. Questions of race and cultural _differerjce 
*$y eriay issue s" of sexuality a n<T g ender and nvwriptprminp %■ ffyial 
alliances of class and ^demojacatic socialism. The time for 'assimilating' 
minorities to holistic and organic notions of cultural value has dramati- 
cally .passed. The very language of cultural community needs to be 
rethought from a .postcolonial perspective, in a move similar to the 
profound shift in the language of sexuality, the self and cultural com- 
munity, effected by feminists in the 1970s and the gay community in 
the 1980s. - ,Cr ^I«xjo 

Culture becomes_a^mucb^ar^4m<^mfortable 7 --disriirhing pracfice_oj 
surviva l and supplementarity - between art and politics, past and pres- 
ent, the public and the private - as its resplendent being is a moment 
of pleasure, enlightenment or liberation. It is„frQm_such r^arrative-posi- 
tions that the postcolonial prer ogative seeks to affirm and^ extend a new 
collaborative dimension, both within the margins of the nation-space 
and across boundaries between nations and peoples. My use of post- 
structuralist theory emerges from this postcolonial contramodemity. I 
attempt to represent a certain defeat, or even an impossibility, of the 
'West' in its authorization of the 'idea' of colonization. Driven by 
4he subaltern history of the margins of modernity - rather than by the 
failures of logocentrism - 1 have tried, in some small measure, to revise 
the known, to rename the postmodern from the position" of "the post- 




The enunciative position of contemporary cultural studies is both com- 
plex and problematic. It attempts to institutionalize a range of_trans- 
glggsiye,,,, discourses whose, strategies are. elaborated around non- 
eguiyaleni sites of representation jvhere a history of discrimination an d 
misrep resentation is common amon g, sa y, women, hlack^Aomosexuals 
ai^fflai3 _WMM migrarflsr tife^eve r f the. 'signs' that_ construct such 
histories and identities - gender, race, homophobia, postwar diaspora, 
refugees, the international division of labour, and so on - not only differ 
in content but often p«oduceJnfiQm patible systems of signification and 
engag ejistinct for ms of .soda! subjectiv ity. To provide a social imaginary 
that is based on the articulation of differential, even disjunctive, 
moments of history and culture, contemporary critics resort to the pecul- 
iar temporality of the language meteghor. It is as if the arbitrariness of 
the sign, the indeterminacy of writing, the splitting of the subject 
of enunciation, these theoretical concepts, produce the most useful 
descriptions of the formation 'postmodern' cultural subjects. 

Cornel West enacts 'a measure of synechdochical thinking' (my 
emphasis) as he attempts to talk of the problems of address in the 
context of a black, radical, 'practicalist' culture: 

A tremendous articulateness is syncopated with the African drum- 
beat . . . into an American postmodernist product: there is no sub- 
ject expressing originary anguish here but a fragmented subject, 
pulling from past and present, innovatively producing a hetero- 
geneous product. . . . [I]t is part and parcel of the subversive ener- 
gies of black underclass youth, energies that are forced to take a 
cultural mode of articulation. 6 

Stuart Ha 1, writing from the perspective of the fragmented, marginal- 
ized, racially discriminated against members of a post-Thatcherite 
underclass, questions the sententiousness of left orthodoxy where 

we go on thinking a unilinear and irreversible political logic, 
driven by some abstract entity that we call the economic or capital 
unfolding to its pre-ordained end. 7 

Earlier in his book, he uses the linguistic sign as a metaphor for a more 
differential and contingent political logic of ideology: 

[T]he ideological sign is always multi-accentual, and Janus-faced - 
that is, it can be discursively rearticulated to construct new mean- 
ings, connect with different social practices, and position social 
subjects differently. . . . Like other symbolic or discursive forma- 
tions, [ideology] is connective across different positions, between 
apparently dissimilar, sometimes contradictory, ideas. Its 'unity' is 



always in quotation marks and always complex, a suturing 
together of elements which have no necessary or eternal 
'belongingness'. It is always, in that sense, organized around arbi- 
trary and not natural closures. 8 

The 'l anguage' metaphor raises the question of cultural difference 
anJTR^nWelteurabuity/not the consensual, ethnocentric notion of "the 
pluralistic existence of^culrural diversity. It, represents the temporality 
qjT^Iti||aC^^Sng„as 'multiraccentual', 'discursively rearticulated'. It 
is a time of the cultura l sign that unsettles the Jtibjsral_ejhfcjrf 
at}d %» pl^nllfot ffflflnqw^tfk of multifiHi uraUsin. Increasingly, th e issu e 
o f cultural (jifforgnrg omorgt»g.^t„,points,.n£^Qcial crises,, and^ the ques - 
tions of identit y that it igis^„ ar^ agonigti^g^ identity is claimed eith er 
from ajgo^pnloLrnalcgkiaUts^ ^^ OT m an^ttempFat girting the centrefin 
botKTsenses, ex-centric. In Britain today this is certainly tfue~of^the 
experimental art and film emerging from the left, associated with 
the postcolonial experience of migration and diaspora and articulated 
in the cultural exploration of new ethnicities. 

The authority of customary, traditional practices - culture's relation 
to the historic past - is not dehistoricized in Hall's language metaphor. 
Those anchoring moments are revalued as a form of anteriority - a 
before that has no a priori(ty) - whose causality is effective because it 
returns to displace the present, to make it disjunctive. This kind of 
disjuncti ve temporality is of the utmost importance for the politics 
of cultural difference. It creates a signifying time for the inscription of 
cultural incommensurability where differences cannot be sublated or 
totalized because 'they somehow occupy the same space'. 9 It is this 
liminal form of cultural identification that is relevant to Charles Taylor' s 
proposal for a 'mini mal r ationali^' ^as Ltiie^basis jj :orjipn-pthnr>r<»rttrir r 
transcultu ral judgements . The effect of cultural incommensurability is 
that it 'takes us beyond merely formal criteria of rationality, and points 
us toward the human activity of articulation which gives the value of 
rationality its sense'. 10 

Minimal rationality, as the activity of articulation embodied in the 
language metaphor, alters the subject of culture from an epistemological 
function to an enunciative practice. If cultiwlas^ep^ 
on function and intention, then culture as enunciation focuses on sig- 
nification and institutionalization; if the epistemological tends towards 
a ~reflection of Its empirical referent or object, the enunciative attempts 
repeatedly to reinscribe and relocate the political claim to cultural 
priority and hierarchy (high/low, ours/theirs) in the social institution 
of the signifying activity. The epistemological is locked into the her- 
meneutic .circle, in the description of cultural elements as they tend 
towards a totality. The enunciative is a more dialogic process that 



attempts to track displacements and realignments that are the effects of 
cultural antagonisms and articulations - subverting the rationale of the 
hegemonic moment and relocating alternative, hybrid sites of cultural 

"My^ sjuftjfrom the .cultural as an epfetemcjtogk^_dbjgrt to culture as 
an enactive, enunciatory site opens up possibilities for other 'times' of 
culffiraTmearuiT^ Tretroactive, prefigurative) and other narrative spaces 
(fantasmic, metaphorical). .My.pujr pose in sperify ing rhp pmmciativp 
pjeserxt,iii tfe? articulation of culture is to provide a process by which 
objectified others jnay be turn^ 

ence. My theoretical argument has a descriptive history in recent work 
in literary and cultural studies by African American and black British 
writers. Hortense Spillers, for instance, evokes the field of 'enunciative 
possibility' to reconstitute the narrative of slavery: 

[A]s many times as we re-open slavery's closure we are hurtled 
rapidly forward into the dizzying motions of a symbolic enterprise, 
and it becomes increasingly clear that the cultural synthesis we 
call 'slavery' was never homogenous in its practices and concep- 
tions, nor unitary in the faces it has yielded. 11 

Deborah McDowell, in her reading of Sherley Anne Williams's Dessa 
Rose, argues that it is the temporality of the enunciatory ' "present" and 
its discourses ... in heterogeneous and messy array', opened up in the 
narrative, that enables the book to wrestle vigorously with 'the critique 
of the subject and the critique of binary oppositions . . . with questions of 
the politics and problematics of language and representation'. 12 Paul 
Gilroy writes of the dialogic, performative 'community' of black music 
- rap, dub, scratching - as a way of constituting an open sense of black 
collectivity in the shifting, changing beat of the present. 13 More recently, 
Houston A. Baker, Jr, has made a spirited argument against 'high cul- 
tural' sententiousness and for the 'very, very sound game of rap (music)', 
which comes through vibrantly in the title of his essay Hybridity, the 
Rap Race, and the Pedagogy of the 1990s. 14 In his perceptive introduction 
to an anthology of black feminist criticism, Henry Louis Gates, Jr, 
describes the contestations and negotiations of black feminists as 
empowering cultural and textual strategies precisely because the critical 
position they occupy is free of the 'inverted' polarities of a 'counter- 
politics of exclusion': 

They have never been obsessed with arriving at any singular self- 
image; or legislating who may or may not speak on the subject; 
or policing boundaries between 'us' and 'them'. 15 

What is striking about the theoretical focus on the enunciatory present 
as a liberatory discursive strategy is its proposal that emergent cultural 



identifications are articulated at the liminal edge of identity - in that 
arbitrary closure, that 'unity ... in quotation marks' (Hall) that the 
language metaphor so clearly enacts. Postcolonial and^black_cri.ti£ues 
propose forms of contestatory subjectivities that are empowered in the 
act of erasing the politics of binary opposition - the inverted polarities 
af a counter-politics (Gates). There is an attempt to construct a theory of 
the social imaginary that requires no subject expressing originary 
anguish (West), no, singular self-image (Gates), no necessary or eternal 
aelongingness (Hall). The contingent and the liminal become the times 
and the spaces for the historical representation of the subjects of cultural 
difference in a postcolonial criticism. 

It is the ambivalence enacted in the enunciative present - disjunctive 
and multiaccentual - that produces the objective of political desire, what 
Hall calls 'arbitrary closure', like the signifier. But this arbitrary closure 
is a lso the cultural space for operung up new forms of identification 
that may confuse the continuity of historical temporalities, confound 
he ordering of cultural symbols, traumatize tradition. The African 
drumbeat" syncopating heterogeneous black American postmodernism, 
he arbitrary but strategic logic of politics - these moments contest the 
sententious 'conclusion' of the discipline of cultural history. 
~*We cannot understand what is being proposed as 'new times' within 
postmodernism - politics at the site of cultural enunciation, cultural 
signs spoken at the margins of social identity and antagonism - if we 
do not briefly explore the paradoxes of the language metaphor. In each 
of the illustrations I've provided, Jthe language metaphor opens up a 
space where a theoretical disclosure is used to move beyond theory. A 
form of cultural experience and identity is envisaged in a Theoretical 
description that does not set up a theory-practice polarity, nor does 
theory become 'prior' to the contingency of social experience. This 
*bey ond theory* is itself a liminal . form of .signifi cation th at creates a 
space for thefcontingent, indeterminate articulation of social 'experience' 
that is particularly important for envisaging emergent cultural identities. 
BuLii~ia_a_jepresentation of 'experience' withouLthe trans parent reality 
of empiricism and outside the intentiona l mastery pf the 'author'. Never- 
theless, it is ITl^reseruation of social experience as the contingency of 
history - the indeterminacy that makes subversion and revision possible 
- that is profoundly concerned with questions of cultural 'authorization'. 

To evoke this 'beyond theory', I turn to Roland Barthes's exploration 
of the cultural space 'outside the sentence'. In The Pleasure of the Text I 
find a subtle suggestion that bey ond theory you do «vrt ffimply e ncounter 
its oppo sition, theory /practice, but an 'outeide' that places, the, ajcticu- 
lation of the two - theory. and„prac4i€ei r language-and-politi€s.^jri^ 
productive relation similar to Derrida's notion of supplementarity: 



a non-dialectical middle, a structure of jointed predication, which 
cannot itself be comprehended by the predicates it distributes. . . . 
Not that this ability . . . shows a lack of power; rather this inability 
is constitutive of the very possibility of the logic of identity 16 


Half-asleep on his banquette in a bar, of which Tangiers is the exemplary 
site, Barthes attempts to 'enumerate the stereophony of languages within 
earshot': music, conversations, chairs, glasses, Arabic, French. 17 Sud- 
denly the inner speech of the writer turns into the exorbitant space of 
the Moroccan souk: 

[T]hrough me passed words, syntagms, bits of formulae and no 
sentence formed, as though that were the law of such a language. 
This speech at once very cultural and very savage, was above all 
lexical, sporadic; it set up in me, through its apparent flow, a 
definitive discontinuity: this non-sentence was in no way some- 
thing that could not have acceded to the sentence, that might have 
been before the sentence; it was: what is . . . outside the sentence.™ 

At this point, Barthes writes, all linguistics that gives an exorbitant 
dignity to predicative syntax fell away. In its wake it becomes possible 
to subvert the 'power of completion which defines sentence mastery 
and marks, as with a supreme, dearly won, conquered savoir faire, the 
agents of the sentence'. 1 ' The hierarchy and the subordinations of 
the sentence are replaced by the definitive discontinuity of the text, and 
what emerges is a form of writing that Barthes describes as 'writing 

a text of pulsional incidents, the language lined with flesh, a text 
where we can hear the grain of the throat ... a whole carnal 
stereophony: the articulation of the tongue, not the meaning of 
language. 20 

Why return to the semiotician's daydream? Why begin with 'theory' 
as story, as narrative and anecdote, rather than with the history or 
method? Beginning with the semiotic project - enumerating all the 
languages within earshot - evokes memories of the seminal influence 
of semiotics within our contemporary critical discourse. To that end, 
this petit ricit rehearses some of the major themes of contemporary 
theory prefigured in the practice of semiotics - the author as an enunciat- 
ive space; the formation of textuality after the fall of linguistics; the 
agonism between the sentence of predicative syntax and the discontinu- 
ous subject of discourse; the disjunction between the lexical and the 



grammatical dramatized in the liberty (perhaps libertinism) of the 

To encounter Barthes's daydream is to acknowledge the formative 
contribution of semiotics to those influential concepts - sign, text, limit 
text, idiolect, ecriture - that have become all the more important since 
they have passed into the unconscious of our critical trade. When Bar- 
thes attempts to produce, with his suggestive, erratic brilliance, a space 
for the pleasure of the text somewhere between 'the political policeman 
and the psychoanalytical policeman' - that is, between 'futility and/ or 
guilt, pleasure is either idle or vain, a class notion or an illusion' 21 - he 
evokes memories of the attempts, in the late 1970s and mid-1980s, to 
hold fast the political line while the poetic line struggled to free itself 
from its post-Althusserian arrest. What guilt, what pleasure. 

To thematize theory is, for the moment, beside the point. To reduce 
this weird and wonderful daydream of the semiotic pedagogue, some- 
what in his cups, to just another repetition of the theoretical litany of 
the death of the author would be reductive in the extreme. For the 
daydream takes semiotics by surprise; it turns pedagogy into the explor- 
ation of its own limits. If you seek simply the sententious or the exegeti- 
cal, you will not grasp the hybrid moment outside the sentence - not 
quite experience, not yet concept; part dream, part analysis; neither 
signifier nor signified. This intermediate space between theory and prac- 
tice disrupts the disciplinary semiological demand to enumerate all the 
languages within earshot. 

Barthes's daydream is supplementary, not alternative, to acting in 
the real world, Freud reminds us; the structure of fantasy narrates the 
subject of daydream as the articulation of incommensurable temporalit- 
ies, disavowed wishes, and discontinuous scenarios. The meaning of 
fantasy does not emerge in the predicative or prepositional value we 
might attach to being outside the sentence. Rather, the performative 
structure of the text reveals a temporality of discourse that I believe is 
significant. It opens up a narrative strategy for the emergence and 
negotiation of those agencies of the marginal, minority, subaltern, or 
diasporic that incite us to think through - and beyond - theory. 

WhatJs caught anecdotally 'outside the sentence', in Barthes's con- 
cept, is that problematic space - pCTformatiye : ra^gxjthjn^^erienHal, 
non-sententious -but- no less theoretical - of whJcJh_poststn«iuralist 
theory speaks in its many varied voices. In spite of the fall of a predict- 
able, predicative linguistics, the space of the non-sentence is not a nega- 
tive ontology: not before the sentence but something Jhat_couU have 
accedejd io the sente^ if. This discourse is indeed 

one of indeterminism, unexpectability, one that is neither 'pure' contin- 
gency or negativity nor endless deferral. 'Outside the sentence' is not 
to be opposed to the inner voice; the non-sentence does not relate to 



the sen ten ce as a polarity. The timeless capture that stages such epis- 
temological 'confrontations', in Richard Rorty's term, is now interrupted 
and interrogated in the doubleness of writing - 'at once very cultural 
and very savage', 'as though that were the law of such a language'. 22 
This disturbs what Derrida calls the occidental stereotomy, the ontologi- 
cal, circumscribing space between subject and object, inside and out- 
side. 23 It is the question of agency, as it emerges in relation to the 
indeterminate and the contingent, that I want to explore 'outside 
the sentence'. However, I want to preserve, at all times, that menacing 
sense in which the non-sentence is contiguous with the sentence, near 
but different, not simply its anarchic disruption. 


What we encounter outside the sentence, beyond the occidental ster- 
eotomy, is what I shall call the 'temporality' of Tangiers. It is a structure 
of temporality that will emerge only slowly and indirectly, as time goes 
by, as they say in Moroccan bars, whether in Tangiers or Casablanca. 
There is, however, an instructive difference between Casablanca and 
Tangiers. In Casablanca the passage of time preserves the identity of 
language; the possibility of naming over time is fixed in the repetition: 

You must remember this 

a kiss is still a kiss 

a sigh is but a sigh 

the fundamental things apply 

As times goes by. 


'Play it again, Sam', which is perhaps the Western world's most cele- 
brated demand for repetition, is still an invocation to similitude, a return 
to the eternal verities. 

In Tangiers, as time goes by, it produces an iterative temporality that 
erases the occidental spaces of language - inside /outside, past/ present, 
those foundationalist epistemological positions of Western empiricism 
and historicism. Tangiers opens up disjunctive, incommensurable 
relations of spacing and temporality within the sign - an 'internal differ- 
ence of the so-called ultimate element (stoikheion, trait, letter, seminal 
mark)'. 24 The non-sentence is not before (either as the past or a priori) 
or inside (either as depth or presence) but outside (both spatially and 
temporally ex-centric, interruptive, in-between, on the borderlines, turn- 
ing inside outside). In each of these inscriptions there is a doubling and 
a splitting of the temporal and spatial dimensions in the very act of 
signification. What emerges in this agonistic, ambivalent form of speech 
- 'at once very cultural and very savage' - is a question about the 



subject of discourse and the agency of the letter: can there be a social sub- 
ject of the 'non-sen tenc eT^ Is it possible to conceive of historical agency 
iriTnatdisjunctiye, indeterminate moment of discourse outside the sen- 
tence? Is the whole thing no more than a theoretical fantasy that reduces 
any form of political critiq<taaai?^-. 

These apprehensions about the agency of the aporetic and the ambiva- 
lent become more acute when political claims are made for their strategic 
action. This is precisely Terr}' Eagleton's recent position, in his critique 
of the libertarian pessimism of poststructuralism: 

[It is] libertarian because something of the old model of 
expression/repression lingers on in the dream of an entirely free- 
floating signifier, an infinite textual productivity, an existence 
blessedly free from the shackles of truth, meaning and sociality. 
Pessimistic, because whatever blocks such creativity - law, mean- 
ing, power, closure - is acknowledged to be built into it, in a 
sceptical recognition of the imbrication of authority and desire. 25 

The agency implicit in this discourse is objectified in a structure of 
the negotiation of meaning that is not a free-floating time lack but a 
time-lag - a contingent moment - in the signification of closure. Tangiers, 
the 'sign' of the 'non-sentence' turns retroactively, at the end of Barthes's 
essay, into a form of discourse that he names 'writing aloud'. The time- 
lag between the event of the sign (Tangiers) and its discursive eventu- 
ality (writing aloud) exemplifies a process where intentionality is nego- 
tiated retrospectively. 26 The sign finds its closure retroactively in a 
discourse that it anticipates in the semiotic fantasy: there is a contiguity, 
a coextensivity, between Tangiers (as sign) and writing aloud (discursive 
formation), in that writing aloud is the mode of inscription of which 
Tangiers is a sign. There is no strict causality between Tangiers as the 
beginning of predication and writing aloud as the end or closure; but 
there is no free-floating signifier or an infinity of textual productivity. 
There is the more complex possibility of negotiating meaning and 
agency through the time-lag in-between the sign (Tangiers) and its 
initiation of a discourse or narrative, where the relation of theory to 
practice is part of what Rodolphe Gasche termed 'jointed predication'. 
In this sense, closure comes to be effected in the contingent moment of 
repetition, 'an overlap without equivalence: fort.da'. 27 

The temporality of Tangiers is a lesson in reading the agency of the 
social text as ambivalent and catachrestic. Gayatri Spivak has usefully 
described the 'negotiation' of the postcolonial position 'in terms of 
reversing, displacing and seizing the apparatus of value-coding', consti- 
tuting a catachrestic space: words or concepts wrested from their proper 
meaning, 'a concept-metaphor without an adequate referent' that per- 
verts its embedded context. Spivak continues, 'Claiming catechresis from 



a space that one cannot not want to inhabit [the sentence, sententious], 
yet must criticize [from outside the sentence] is then, the deconstructive 
predicament of the postcolonial.' 28 

This Derridean position is close to the conceptual predicament outside 
the sentence. I have attempted to provide the discursive temporality, or 
time-lag, which is crucial to the process by which this turning around 
- of tropes, ideologies, concept metaphors - comes to be textualized 
and specified in postcolonial agency: the moment when the 'bar' of 
the occidental stereotomy is turned into the coextensive, contingent 
boundaries of relocation and reinscription: the catachrestic gesture. The 
insistent issue in any such move is the nature of the negotiatory agent 
realized through the time-lag. How does agency come to be specified 
and individuated, outside^ the d%ouree^TTif~Tn dividudlis ii i? How"~does 
the fime-lag^'slgnlfy individuation as a position that is an effect of the 
'intersubjective': contiguous with the social and yet contingent, indeter- 
minate, in relation to it? 29 

Writing aloud, for Barthes, is neither the 'expressive' function of lan- 
guage as authorial intention or generic determination nor meaning 
personified. 30 It is similar to the actio repressed by classical rhetoric, and 
it is the 'corporeal exteriorization of discourse'. It is the art of guiding 
one's body into discourse, in such a way that the subject's accession to, 
and erasure in, the signifier as individuated is paradoxically 
accompanied by its remainder, an afterbirth, a double. Its noise - 'crac- 
kle, grate, cut' - makes vocal and visible, across the flow of the sen- 
tence's communicative code, the struggle involved in the insertion of 
agency - wound and bow, death and life - into discourse. 

In Lacanian terms, which are appropriate here, this 'noise' is the 
'leftover' after the capitonnage, or positioning, of the signifier for the sub- 
ject. The Lacanian 'voice' that speaks outside the sentence is itself the 
voice of an interrogative, calculative agency: 'Che vuoi? You are telling 
me that, but what do you want with it, what are you aiming at?' (For 
a clear explanation of this process, see Zizek, The Sublime Object of 
Ideology. 3 *) What speaks in the place of this question, Jacques Lacan 
writes, is a 'third locus which is neither my speech nor my inter- 
locutor'. 32 

The time-lag opens up this negotiatory space between putting the 
question to the subject and the subject's repetition 'around' the neither/ 
nor of the third locus. This constitutes the return of the subject agent, 
as the interrogative agency in the catechrestic position. Such a disjunc- 
tive space of temporality is the locus of symbolic identification that 
structures the intersubjective realm - the realm of otherness and the 
social - where 'we identify ourselves with the other precisely at a point 
at which he is inimitable, at the point which eludes resemblance.' 33 My 
contention, elaborated in my writings on postcolonial discourse in terms 



of mimicry, hybridity, sly civility, is that this liminal moment of identifi- 
cation - eluding resemblance - produces a subversive strategy of subal- 
tern agency that negotiates its own authority through a process of 
iterative 'unpicking' and incommensurable, insurgent relinking. It singu- 
larizes the 'totality' of authority by suggesting that agency requires a 
grounding, but it does not require a totalization of those grounds; it 
requires movement and manoeuvre, but it does not require a temporality 
of continuity or accumulation; it requires direction and contingent clos- 
ure but no teleology and holism. (For elaboration of these concepts, see 
Chapters 1 and 8.) 

The individuation of the agent occurs in a moment of displacement. 
It is a pulsional incident, the split-second movement when the process 
of the subject's designation - its fixity - opens up beside it, uncannily 
abseits, a supplementary space of contingency, hi this 'return'., .of ...the 
subject, thrown back a ross the distance of the signified, outside the sen- 
tence, the agent emerges as a form of retroactivity, Nachtraglichkeit. lt is 
not agency as itself (transcendent, transparent) or in itself (unitary, 
or^ankr-auteBOffleus^. As a resu lt of its own splitting in the time-lag of 
signification, the moment of the subject's individuation emerges as an 
effecToflhe inferai^ctiyjej.aa the. .return of the subject a¥ajgenf! This 
means that those elements of social 'consciousness' imperative for 
agency - deliberative, individuated action and specificity in analysis - 
can how be thought outside that epistemology that insists on the subject 
as always prior to the social or on the knowledge of the social as 
necessarily subsurning or sublating the particular 'difference' injhe 
transceiJ,deJBLh^rnogeneity of the general. The iterative and contingent 
that marks this mtersubjecTrve^elaWn "can never be libertarian or free- 
floating, as Eagleton claims, because the agent, constituted in the 
subject's return, is in the dialogic position of calculation, negotiation, 
interrogation: Che vuoil 


Something of this genealogy of postcolonial agency has already been 
encountered in my expositions of the ambivalent and the multivalent 
in the language metaphor at work in West's 'synechdochical thinking' 
about black American cultural hybridity and Hall's notion of 'politics 
like a language'. The implications of this line of thinking were pro- 
ductively realized in the work of Spillers, McDowell, Baker, Gates and 
Gilroy, all of whom emphasize the importance of the creative heterogen- 
eity of the enunciatory present' that liberates the discourse of 
emahclpation from binary closures. I want to give contingency^anoihfir 
turn - through "the Barthesiah f antasy- by Throwing the last line of the 
text, its conclusion, together with an earlier moment when Barthes 



speaks suggestively of closure as agency. Once again, we have an over- 
lap without equivalence. For the notion of a non-teleological and a non- 
dialectical form of closure has often been considered the most problem- 
atic issue for the p c^stmo dj.m agejlt VQtbout_a rause; 

[Writing aloud] succeedfs] in shifting the signified a great distance 
and in throwing, so to speak, the anonymous body of the actor 
into my ear. . . . And this body of bliss is also my historical subject; 
for it is at the conclusion of a very complex process of biographical, 
historical, sociological, neurotic elements . . . that I control the con- 
tradictory interplay of [cultural] pleasure and [non-cultural] bliss 
that I write myself as a subject at present out of place. 34 

The contingency of the subject as agent is articulated in a double 
dirnension, a dramatic action. TheJagnlS^ 

time lag op ens up the space_between the lexical and the grammatical, 
betw een enunciation and enou nced, in-between the anchoring of signi- 
fiers^Then, suddenly, this in-between spatial cUmensldn, this custancing, 
converts itself into the temporality of the 'throw' that iteratively (re)tums 
the subject as a moment of conclusion and control: a historically or 
contextually specific subject. How are we to think the control or con- 
clusion in the context of contingency? 

We need, not surprisingly, to invoke both meanings of contingency and 
then to repeat the difference of the one in the other. Recall my suggestion 
that to interrupt the occidental stereotomy - inside/ outside, space/time 
- one needs to think, outside the sentence, at once very cultural and 
very savage. The contingent is contiguity, metonymy, the touching of 
spatial boundaries at a tangent, and, at the same time, the contingent is 
the temporality of the mde^erminate and the undecidable. It is the 
kinetic tension that holds this double determination together and apart 
within discourse. They represent the repetition of the one in or as the 
other, in a structure of 'abyssal overlapping' (a Derridean term) which 
enables us to conceive of strategic closure and control for the agent. 
Representing social contradiction or antagonism in this doubling dis- 
course of contingency - where the spatial dimension of contiguity is 
reiterated in the temporality of the indeterminate - cannot be dismissed 
as the arcane practice of the undecidable or aporetic. 

The importance of the problematic of contingency for historical dis- 
course is evident in Ranajit Guha's attempt to represent the specificity 
of rebel consciousness. 35 Guha's argument reveals the need for such a 
double and disjunctive sense of the contingent, although his own read- 
ing of the concept, in terms of the 'universal-contingent' couple, is more 
Hegelian in its elaboration. 36 Re bel c onsciousness is inscribed in two 
major narratives. In bourgeois-nationalist historiography, it is seen as 
'pure spontaneity pittecf "against the will of the State as embodied in 



the Raj'. The will of the rebels is either denied or subsumed in the 
individualized capacity of their leaders, who frequently belong to 
the elite gentry. Radical historiography failed to specify rebel conscious- 
ness because its continuist narrative ranged 'peasant revolts as a suc- 
cession of events ranged along a direct line of descent ... as a heritage'. 
In assimilating all moments of rebel consciousness to the 'highest 
moment of the series - indeed to an Ideal Consciousness' - these his- 
torians 'are ill-equipped to cope with contradictions which are indeed 
the stuff history is made of'. 37 

Guha's elaborations of rebel contradiction as consciousness are 
strongly suggestive of agency as the activity of the contingent. What I 
have described as the return of the subject is present in his account of 
rebel consciousness as self -alienated. My suggestion that the problematic 
jof contingency strategically allows for a spatial contiguity - solidarity, 
collecrivite action - to be (re)articulated in the moment of indeterminacy 
is, reading between the lines, very close to his sense of the strategic 
afljjiiMTiceftffi contradictory and hybrid sites, and symbols, of 

peasant revolt. What historiography fails to grasp is indeed agency at 
the point of the 'combination of sectarianism and militancy . . . [specifi- 
cally] the ambiguity of such phenomena'; causality as the 'time' of 
indeterminate articulation: 'the swift transformation of class struggle into 
communal strife and vice versa in our countryside'; and ambivalence at 
the point of 'individuation' as an intersubjective affect: 

Blinded by the glare of a perfect and immaculate consciousness 
the historian sees nothing . . . but solidarity in rebel behaviour and 

fails to notice its Other, namely, betrayal He underestimates 

the brakes put on [insurgency as a generalized movement] by local- 
ism and territoriality. 38 

Finally, as if to provide an emblem for my notion of agency in the 
apparatus of contingency - its hybrid figuring of space and time - Guha, 
quoting Sunil Sen's Agrarian Struggle in Bengal, beautifully describes the 
'ambiguity of such phenomena' as the hybridized signs and sites during 
the Tebhaga movement in Dinajpur: 

Muslim peasants [came] to the Kisan Sabha 'sometimes inscribing 
a hammer and a sickle on the Muslim League flag' and young 
maulavis '[recited] melodious verses from the Koran' at village 
meetings 'as they condemned the jotedari system and the practice 
of charging high interest rates.' 39 




The ccmtingentxonditions of agency also take us to the heart of Mikhail 
M. Bakhtin's important attempt, in speech genres, to designate the enun- 
ciative subject of heteroglossia and dialogism. 40 As with Guha, my read- 
ing will be catechrestic: reading between the lines, taking neither him 
at his word nor me fully at mine. In focusing on how the chain of 
speech communication comes to be constituted, I deal withJBakhtin's 
attempt to individuate social agency as an after-effect of the intersubjec- 
4iye. My cross-hatched matrix of contingency - as spatial difference and 
temporal distance, to turn the terms somewhat - enables us to see how 
Bakhtin provides a knowledge of the transformation of social discourse 
while displacing the originating subject and the causal and continuist 
progress of discourse: 

The object, as it were, has already been articulated, disputed, eluci- 
dated and evaluated in various ways The speaker is not the 

biblical Adam ... as simplistic ideas about communication as a 
logical-psychological basis for the sentence suggest. 41 

Bakhtin's use of the metaphor of the chain of communication picks 
up the sense of contingency as contiguity, while the question of the 
'link' immediately raises the issue of contingency as the indeterminate. 
Bakhtin^s^jspiacfimenJ^of the au thor .as agent results from his acknow- 
ledgement of the Jcomplex, multiplanar' structure of the speech genre 
that exists in that kinetic tension. in-betwe en the, two.. forces of contin- 
gency^^ of the object of utterance are contiguous 
in the assimilation of the other's speech; but the allusion to another's 
utterance produces a dialogical turn, a moment of indeterminacy in the 
act of 'addressivity' (Bakhtin's concept) that gives rise within the chain 
of speech communion to 'unmediated responsive reactions and dialogic 
reverberations'. 42 

Although Bakhtin acknowledges this double movement in the chain 
of the utterance, there is a sense in which he disavows its effectivity at 
the point of the enunciation of discursive agency. He displaces this 
conceptual problem that concerns the performativity of the speech- 
act - its enunciative modalities of time and space - to an empiricist 
acknowledgement of the 'area of human activity and everyday life to 
which the given utterance is related'. 43 It is not that the social context 
does not localize the utterance; it is simply that the process of specifi- 
cation and individuation still needs to be elaborated within Bakhtin's 
theory, as the modality through which the speech genre comes to recog- 
nize the specific as a signifying limit, a discursive boundary. 

There are moments when Bakhtin obliquely touches on the tense 
doubling of the contingent that I have described. When he talks of the 



'dialogic overtones' that permeate the agency of utterance - 'many half- 
concealed or completely concealed words of others with varying degrees 
of foreignness' - his metaphors hint at the iterative intersubjective tem- 
porality in which the agency is realized 'outside' the author: ^ 

[T]he utterance appears to be furrowed with distant and barely 
audible echoes of changes of speech subjects and dialogic over- 
tones, greatly weakened utterance boundaries that are completely 
permeable to the author's expression. The uttoance_proves to be 
a very complex and t^&^s^pbenomemoB^--emaid^^&^^ 
isolation and witff respect to its author .......... but as a link in the 

chain of speech communication and with respect to other related 
utterances 44 

Through this landscape of echoes and ambivalent boundaries, framed 
in passing, furrowed horizons, the agent who is 'not Adam' but is, 
indeed, time-lagged, emerges into the social realm of discourse. 

Agency, as the return of the subject, as 'not Adam', has a mo e directly 
political history in Hannah Arendt's portrayal of the troubled narrative 
of social causality According to Arendt the notorious uncertainty of all 
political matters arises from the fact that the disclosure of who - the 
agent as individuation - is contiguous with the what of the intersubjec- 
tive realm. This contiguous relation between who and what cannot be 
transcended but must be accepted as a form of indeternunism and 
doubling. The who of agency bears no mimetic immediacy or adequacy 
of representation. It can only be signified outside the sentence in that 
sporadic, ambivalent temporality that inhabits the notorious unreliability 
of ancient oracles who 'neither reveal nor hide in words but give mani- 
fest signs'. 45 The unreliability of signs introduces a perplexity in the 
social text: 

The perplexity is that in any series of events that together form a 
story with a unique meaning we can at best isolate the agent 
who set the whole process into motion; and although this agent 
frequently remains the subject, the 'hero' of the story, we can never 
point unequivocally to him as the author of its outcome. 4 * 

This is the structure of the intersubjective space between agents, what 
Arendt terms human 'inter-est'. It i s thi s pubJic^phexe-of-Unguage^and 
action_fliai^mistJbecorne- -aL_cgicfi J flie.-.tbjeatiK.jind_tjhe screen for the 
manifestation of the c apacities of human agency. Tangiers-like, the event 
and its everuuauty are separated; the narrative time-lag makes the who 
and the what contingent, splitting them, so that the agent remains the 
subject, in suspension, outside the sentence. The agent who 'causes' 
the narrative becomes part of the interest, only because we cannot point 
unequivocally to that agent at the point of outcome. It is the contingency 



that constitutes individuation - in the return of the subject as agent 
- that protects the interest of the intersubjective realm. 

The contingency of closure socializes the agent as a collective 'effect' 
through the distancing of the author. Between the cause and its inten- 
tionaiity falls the shadow. Can we then unquesHohaBIy proj^sejdjat a 
s tory h as a unique .meaning inJjKe first place? 15" wKat end does the 
series of eyente tend_ ^ 

the author of . the-«ause?-> Does it not suggest that agency arises in the 
return of the subject, from the interruption of the series of events as a 
kind of interrogation and reinscription of before and after? Where the 
two touch is there not that kinetic tension between the contingent as 
the contiguous and the indeterminate? Is it not from there that agency 
speaks and acts: Che vuoil 

These questions are provoked by Arendt's brilliant suggestiveness, 
for her writing symptomatically performs the perplexities she evokes. 
Having brought close together the unique meaning and the causal agent, 
she says that the 'invisible actor' is an 'invention arising from a mental 
perplexity' corresponding to no real experience. 47 It is this distancing of 
the signified, this anxious fantasm or simulacrum - in the place of the 
author - that, according to Arendt, indicates most clearly the political 
nature of history. The sign of the political is, moreover, not invested in 
'the character of the story itself but only [in] the mode in which it came 
into existence'. 48 So it is the realm of representation and the process of 
signification that constitutes the space of the political. What is temporal 
in the mode of existence of the political? Here Arendt resorts to a form 
of repetition to resolve the ambivalence of her argument. The 
'reification' of the agent can only occur, she writes, through 'a kind of 
repetition, the imitation of mimesis, which according to Aristotle pre- 
vails in all arts but is actually appropriate to the drama'. 49 

This repetition of the agent, reified in the liberal vision of togetherness, 
is quite different from my sense of the contingent agency for our postcol- 
onial age. The reasons for this are not difficult to find. Arendt's belief 
in the revelatory qualities of Aristotelian mimesis are grounded in a 
notion of community, or the public sphere, that is largely consensual: 
'where people are with others and neither for nor against them - that 
is sheer human togetherness'. 50 When people are passionately for or 
against one another, then human togetherness is lost as they deny the 
fullness of Aristotelian mimetic time. Arendt's form of social mimesis 
does not deal with social marginality as a product of the liberal State, 
which can, if articulated, reveal the limitations of its common sense 
(inter-est) of society from the perspective of minorities or the marginal- 
ized. Social violence is, for Arendt, the denial of the disclosure of agency, 
the point at which 'speech becomes "mere talk", simply one more means 
towards the end'. 51 



My concern is with other articulations of human togetherness, as they 
are related to cultural difference and discrimination. For instance, 
human togetherness may come to represent the forces of hegemonic 
authority; or a solidarity founded in victimization and suffering may, 
implacably, sometimes violently, become bound against oppression; or 
a subaltern or minority agency may attempt to interrogate and rearticu- 
late the 'inter-est' of society that marginalizes its interests. These dis- 
courses of cultural dissent and social antagonism cannot find their 
agents in Arendt's Aristotelian mimesis. In the process I've described 
as the return of the subject, there is an agency that seeks revision and 
reinscription: the attempt to renegotiate the third locus, the intersubjec- 
tive realm. The repetition of the iterative, the activity of the time-lag, is 
not so much arbitrary as interruptive, a closure that is not conclusion 
but a liminal interrogation outside the sentence. 

In 'Where is speech? Where is language?' Lacan describes this moment 
of negotiation from within the 'metaphoricity' of language while making 
a laconic reference to the ordering of symbo s in the realm of social 

It is the temporal element ... or the temporal break . . . the inter- 
vention of a scansion permitting the intervention of something 
which can take on meaning for a subject. . . . There is in fact a 
reality of signs within which there exists a world of truth entirely 
deprived of subjectivity, and that, on the other hand there has 
been a historical development of subjectivity manifestly directed 
towards the rediscovery of truth which lies in the order of 
symbols. 52 

The process of reinscription and negotiation - the insertion or inter- 
vention of somethings that takes on new meaning - happens in the 
temporal "break" in-between the sign, deprived of subjectivity, in the realm 
of the intersubjective. Through this time-lag - Ae_hmj^ora^rejdc_ in 
representation - emerges the process of agency both as a historical 
development and as the narrative agency of historical discourse What 
comes out so clearly in Lacan's genealogy of the subject is that the 
agent's intentionality, which seems 'manifestly directed' towards the 
truth of the order of symbols in the social imaginary, is a so an effect 
of the rediscovery of the world of truth denied subjectivity because it 
is intersubjective) at the level of the sign. It is in the contingent tension 
that results, t hat sim ^and symbol overlap and are indeterminately 
articulated through the 'temporal break'. Where the sign deprived of 
the subject - intersubjectivity - returns as subjectivity directed towards 
the rediscovery of truth, then a (re)ordering of symbols becomes possible 
in the sphere of the social. When the sigh" ceases ffie synchrony 
of the symbol, it also seizes the power to elaborate - through" the fime- 



lag - new and hybrid agencies and articulations. This is the moment 



The concept of reinscription and negotiation that I am elaborating must 
not be confused with the powers of 'redescription' that have become 
the hallmark of the liberal ironist or neo-pragmatist. I do not offer a 
critique of this influential non-foundationalist position here except to 
point to the obvious differences of approach. Rorty's conception of 
the representation of difference in social discourse is the consensual 
overlapping of 'final vocabularies' that allow imaginative identification 
with the other so long as certain words - 'kindness, decency, dignity' - 
are held in common. 53 However, as he says, the liberal ironist can never 
elaborate an empowering strategy. Just how disempowering his views 
are for the non-Western other, how steeped in a Western ethnocentric- 
ism, is seen, appropriately for a non-foundationalist, in a footnote. 
Rorty suggests that 

liberal society already contains the institutions for its own improve- 
ment [and that] Western social and political thought may have had 
the last conceptual revolution it needs in J. S. Mill's suggestion 
that governments should optimize the balance between leaving 
people's private lives alone and preventing suffering. 54 

Appended to this is the footnote where liberal ironists suddenly lose 
their powers of redescription: 

This is not to say that the world has had the last political revolution 
it needs. It is hard to imagine the diminution of cruelty in countries 
like South Africa, Paraguay, and Albania without violent 

revolution But in such countries raw courage (like that of the 

leaders of COSATU or the signers of Charta 77) is the relevant 
virtue, not the sort of reflective acumen which makes contributions 
to social theory. 55 

This is where Rorty's conversation stops, but we must force the dia- 
logue to acknowledge postcolonial social and cultural theory that reveals 
the limits of liberalism in the postcolonial perspective: 'Bourgeois culture 
hits its historical limit in colonialism/ writes Guha sententiously, 56 and, 
almost as if to speak 'outside the sentence', Veena Das reinscribes Guha's 
thought into the affective language of a metaphor and the body: 'Subal- 
tern rebellions can only provide a night-time of love Yet perhaps in 

capturing this defiance the historian has given us a means of construct- 
ing the objects of such power as subjects.' 57 

In her excellent essay 'Subaltern as perspective'. Das demands a 



historiography of the subaltern that displaces the paradigm of social 
acHofTlis~"defir(ed primarily by rational action. She seeks a form of 
discourse where affective and iterative writing develops its own lan- 
guage. History as a writing that constructs the moment of defiance 
emerges in the 'magma of significations', for the 'representational closure 
which presents itself when we encounter thought in objectified forms is 
now ripped open. Instead we see this order interrogated.' 58 In an argu- 
ment that demands an enunciative temporality remarkably close to my 
notion of the time-lag that circulates at the point of the sign's seizure/ 
caesura of symbolic synchronicity, Das locates the moment of trans- 
gression in the splitting of the discursive present: a greater attention is 
required to locate transgressive agency in 'the splitting of the various 
types of speech produced into statements of referential truth in the 
indicative present'. 59 

This emphasis on the disjunctive present of utterance enables the 
Wstorian to get away from defining subaltern consciousness as binary 
as having positive or negative dimensions. It allows the articulation of 
subaltern agency to emerge as relocation and reinscription. In the seizure 
of the sign, as I've argued, there is neither dialectical sublation nor the 
empty signifier: there is a contestation of the given symbols of authority 
that shift the terrains of antagonism. The synchronicity in the social 
ordering of symbols is challenged within its own terms, but the grounds 
of engagement have been displaced in a supplementary movement that 
exceeds those terms. This is the historical movement of hybridity as 
camouflage, as a contesting, antagonistic agency functioning in the time 
lag of sign/symbol, which is a space in-between the rules of engage- 
ment It is this theoretical form of political agency I've attempted to 
develop that Das beautifully fleshes out in a historical argument: 

It is the nature of the conflict within which a caste or tribe is locked 
which may provide the characteristics of the historical moment; to 
assume that we may know a priori the mentalities of castes or 
communities is to take an essentialist perspective which the evi- 
dence produced in the very volumes of Subaltern Studies would 
not support. 60 

Is the contingent structure of agency not similar to what Frantz Fanon 
describes as the knowledge of the practice of action? 61 FanQn.^Igues 
tha tthe prim itive ^amchaeamsm of ^ 

and Christian - breaks down in the present of struggle for independence. 
P olarities come to be replace d wMTrntP a^Varff <m1y |yig^Jjim«aH 
and unstable. Each 'local ebb of the tide reviews the political question 
from_the_sjai^ The leaders should stand 

firmly against those within the movement who tend to think that 'shades 
of meaning constitute dangers and drive wedges into the solid block of 



popular opinion'. 62 What Das and Fanon both describe is the potentiality 
of agency constituted through the strategic use of historical contingency. 

The form of agency that I've attempted to describe through the cut 
and thrust of sign and symbol, the signifying conditions of contingency, 
the night-time of love, returns to interrogate that most audacious dialec- 
tic of modernity provided by contemporary theory - Foucault's 'Man 
and his doubles'. Foucault's productive influence on postcolonial schol- 
ars, from Australia to India, has not been unqualified, particularly in 
his construction of modernity Mitchell Dean, writing in the Melbourne 
journal Thesis Eleven, remarks that the identity of the West's modernity 
obsessively remains 'the most general horizon under which all of Fou- 
cault's actual historical analyses are landmarked'. 63 And for this very 
reason, Partha Chatterjee argues that Foucault's genealogy of power has 
limited uses in the developing world. The combination of modem and 
archaic regimes of power produces unexpected forms of disciplinarity 
and govemmentality that make Foucault's epistemes inappropriate, 
even obsolete. 64 

But could Foucault's text, which bears such an attenuated relation to 
Western modernity, be free of that epistemic displacement - through the 
(post)colonial formation - that constitutes the West's sense of itself 
as progressive, civil, modem? Does the disavowal of colonialism turn 
Foucault's 'sign' of the West into the symptom of an obsessional mod- 
ernity? Can the colonial moment ever not be contingent - the contiguous 
as indeterminacy - to Foucault's argument? 

At the magisterial end of Foucault's The Order of Things, when the 
section on history confronts its uncanny doubles - the counter-sciences 
of anthropology and psychoanalysis - the argument begins to unravel. 
It happens at a symptomatic moment when the representation of cultural 
difference attenuates the sense of history as the embedding, domesticat- 
ing 'homeland' of the human sciences. For the finitude of history - its 
moment of doubling - participates in the conditionally of the contin- 
gent. An incommensurable doubleness ensues between history as the 
'homeland' of the human sciences - its cultural area, its chronological 
or geographical boundaries - and the claims of historicism to universal- 
ism. At that point, 'the subject of knowledge becomes the nexus of 
different times, foreign to it and heterogeneous in respect to one 
another.' 65 In that contingent doubling of history and nineteenth-century 
historicism the time-lag in the discourse enables the return of historical 

Since time comes to him from somewhere other than himself he 
constitutes himself as a subject of history only by the superimpo- 

sition of . . . the history of things, the history of words But this 

relation of simple passivity is immediately reversed ... for he too 



has a right to a development quite as positive as that of beings 
and things, one no less autonomous. 66 

As a result the heimlich historical subject that arises in the nineteenth 
century cannot stop constituting the unheimlich knowledge of itself by 
compulsively relating one cultural episode to another in an infinitely 
repetitious series of events that are metonymic and indeterminate. The 
grand narratives^ of nineteen^ 

to universalism were founded - evolutionism, utilitarianism, evangelism 
- were also, in another textual and territorial time/space, the techno- 
logies ""of colonial and imperialist governance. It is th e 'rationalism ' of 
these i ideologies of progress that increasingly comes to be erod ed in fee 
encounter with the contingency of cultural difference. Elsewhere I have 
explored this historical process, perfectly caught in the picturesque 
words of a desperate missionary in the early nineteenth century as the 
colonial predicament of 'sly civility' (see Chapter 5). The result of this 
colonial encounter, its antagonisms and ambivalences, has a major effect 
on what Foucault beautifully describes as the 'slendemess of the narra- 
tive' of history in that era most renowned for its historicizing (and 
colonizing) of the world and the word. 67 

History now 'takes place on the outer limits of the object and subject', 
Foucault writes,* 8 and it is to probe the uncanny unconscious of history's 
doubling that he resorts to anthropology and psychoanalysis. In these 
disciplines the cultural unconscious is spoken in the slendemess of 
narrative - ambivalence, catachresis, contingency, iteration, abyssal over- 
lapping. In the agonistic temporal break that articulates fee cultural 
symbol to the psychic sign, we shall discover the postcolonial symptom 
of Foucault's discourse. Writing of the history of anthropology as the 
'counter-discourse' to modernity - as the possibility of a human science 
postmodernism - Foucault says: 

There is a certain position in the Western ratio that was constituted 
in its history and provides a foundation for the relation it can have 
with all other societies, even ivith the society in which it historically 
appeared. 69 

Foucault fails to elaborate that 'certain position' and its historical 
constitution. By disavowing it, however, he names it as a negation in 
the very next line which reads: 'Obviously this does not mean that the 
colonizing situation is indispensable to ethnology' 

Are we demanding that Foucault should reinstate colonialism as the 
missing moment in the dialectic of modernity? Do we want him to 
'complete' the argument by appropriating ours? Definitely not. I suggest 
that the postcolonial perspective is subversively working in his text 
in that moment of contingency that allows the contiguity of his argument 



- thought following thought - to progress. Then, suddenly, at the point 
of its closure, a curious indeterminacy enters the chain of discourse. 
This becomes the space for a new discursive temporality, another place 
of enunciation that will not allow the argument to expand into an 
unproblematic generality. 

In this spirit of conclusion, I want to suggest a departure for the 
postcolonial text in the Foucauldian forgetting. In talking of psycho- 
analysis Foucault is able to see how knowledge and power come 
together in the enunciative 'present' of transference: the 'calm violence' 

- as he calls it - of a relationship that constitutes the discourse. By 
disavowing the colonial moment as an enunciative present in the histori- 
cal and epistemological condition of Western modernity, Foucault can 
say little about the transferential relation between the West and its 
colonial history. He disavows precisely the colonial text as the foun- 
dation for the relation the Western ratio can have 'even with the society 
in which it historically appeared.' 70 

Reading from this perspective we can see that, in insistently spatializ- 
ing the 'time' of history, Foucault constitutes a doubling of 'man' that 
is strangely collusive with its dispersal, equivalent to its equivocation, 
and uncannily self-constituting, despite its game of 'double and splits'. 
Reading from the transferential perspective, where the Western ratio 
returns to itself from the time-lag of the colonial relation, then we see 
how modernity and postmodemity are themselves constituted from the 
marginal perspective of cultural difference. They encounter themselves 
contingently at the point at which the internal difference of their own 
society is reiterated in terms of the difference of the other, the alterity 
of the postcolonial site. 

At this point of self -alienation postcolonial agency returns, in a spirit 
of calm violence, to interrogate Foucault's fluent doubling of the fig- 
ures of modernity. What it reveals is not some buried concept but a 
truth about the symptom of Foucault's thinking, the style of discourse 
and narrative that objectifies his concepts. It reveals the reason for 
Foucault's desire to anxiously play with the folds of Western modernity, 
fraying the finitudes of human beings, obsessively undoing and doing 
up the threads of that 'slender narrative' of nineteenth-century historic- 
ism. This nervous narrative illustrates and attenuates his own argument; 
like the slender thread of history, it refuses to be woven in, menacingly 
hanging loose from the margins. What stops the narrative thread from 
breaking is Foucault's concern to introduce, at the nexus of his doubling, 
the idea that 'the man who appears at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century is dehistoricized.' 71 

The dehistoricized authority of 'Man and his doubles' produces, in 
the same historical period, those forces of normalization and 
naturalization that create a modem Western disciplinary society. The 



invisible power that is invested in this dehistoricized figure of Man is 
gained at the cost of those 'others' - women, natives, the colonized, the 
indentured and enslaved - who, at the same time but in other spaces, 
were becoming the peoples without a history. 




Signs of violence in the mid-nineteenth 


There is often in the Simultaneous, the Coincidental, an apparent uniform- 
ity of tendency, which simulates designs, but which so far as human 
agency is concerned, is wholly fortuitous. We see this in the commonest 
concerns of life. We see it in events affecting mightily the destinies of 
empires. Under a pressure of concurrent annoyances and vexations, men 
often cry out that there is a conspiracy against them, and the historical 
inquirer often sees a conspiracy, when in reality there is only a coincidence. 
A great disaster like the massacre at Vellur, acts like iodine upon hidden 
writings in rice water. 

Sir John Kaye, History of the Indian Mutiny 1 

How is historical agency enacted in the slendemess of narrative? How 
do we historicize the event of the dehistoricized? If, as they say, the 
past is a foreign country, then what does it mean to encounter a past 
that is your own country reterritorialized, even terrorized by another? 
I have suggested in Chapter 9 that the process of historical revision 
and the production of political and cultural agency emerge through a 
discursive time-lag; in the contingent tension between the social order 
of symbols and the 'desubjected' scansion of the sign. 2 This temporality 
finds its spirit of place in the 'not-there' that Toni Morrison memorializes 
in her fiction and uses, interrogatively, to establish the presence of a 
black literary work. The act of 'rememoration' (her concept of the re- 
creation of popular memory) turns the present of narrative enunciation 
into the haunting memorial of what has been excluded, excised, evicted, 
and for that very reason becomes the unheimlich space for the negotiation 
of identity and history. 'A void may be empty but it is not a vacuum.' 
Toni Morrison writes: 

Certain absences are so stressed [that] they arrest us with their 
intentionality and purpose, like neighbourhoods that are defined 
by the population held away from them. Where ... is the shadow 
of the presence from which the text has fled? Where does it 
heighten, where does it dislocate? 3 



Intentionality and purpose - the signs of agency - emerge from the 
'time-lag', from the stressed absence that is an arrest, a ceasure of time, 
a temporal break. In so specifying slave history, through an act of 
communal memory, Toni Morrison negates narrative continuity and the 
cacophonous comfort of words. In Beloved it is the cryptic circulation of 
number as the very first word, as the displacement of the 'personalized' 
predication of language, that speaks the presence of the slave world: 
'124 was spiteful. Full of baby's venom. The women in the house knew 
it and so did the children.' 4 

In the habitus of death and the daemonic, reverberates a form of 
memory that survives in the sign - 124 - which is the world of truth 
deprived of subjectivity. And then suddenly from the space of the not- 
there, emerges the re-membered historical agency 'manifestly directed 
towards the rediscovery of truth which lies in the order of symbols' 
(see pp. 191-2). 124 was spiteful - the act of predication and intention 
effected by numbers is Morrison's attempt to constitute a form of 
address that is personalized by its own discursive activity, 'not the 
pasted on desire for personality' 5 (what I have called individuation, not 
individualism). And this creation of historical agency produces the sub- 
ject from out of the temporality of the contingent: 'snatched as the slaves 
were from one place to another, from any place to another, without 
preparation and without defense. . . . The reader is snatched, yanked, 
thrown into an environment completely foreign.' 6 

It is the caesura of the sign - 124 - that constitutes, according to 
Morrison, the 'first stroke' of the communal, intersubjective experience 
of the slave world. The discursive event of 124 remembers death, love, 
sexuality and slavery; its iterative articulations of those histories of 
cultural difference produce a community-in-discontinuity, historical 
revision in diaspora. The community Morrison envisages is inscribed in 
that slendemess of narrative where social solidarity is wrought through 
the crises and contingencies of historical survival: of getting, she says, 
from the 'first to the next and next' where the contiguity of action and 
narration are linked in the moment of 'not-there' which subverts the 
synchronous Western sense of time and tradition. 

I want to link this circulation of the sign from the 1870s in the world 
of Beloved, to the circulation of other signs of violence in the 1850s and 
60s in northern and central India. I want to move from the tortured 
history of Abolitionism to the Indian Mutiny. My reckless historical 
connection is based not on a sense of the contiguity of events, but 
on the temporality of repetition that constitutes those signs by which 
marginalized or insurgent subjects create a collective agency. I am 
interested in cultural strategy and political confrontation constituted in 
obscure, engimatic symbols, the manic repetition of rumour, panic as 
the uncontrolled, yet strategic affect of political revolt. More specifically, 



I want to tease out the slendemess of narrative that, in the midst of the 
major agrarian and political causes of the Indian Mutiny, tells the story 
of those 'chapatis' (unleavened flat bread) that were rapidly circulated 
across the rural heartlands of the Mutiny, just after the introduction into 
the Native Infantries of the Enfield rifle and its notorious 'greased' 
cartridge. In Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, Ranajit Guha uses 
the chapati story as one of his main illustrations of the 'symbolic' 
transmission of rebel agency. 

Whether we take the chapatis as historical 'myth' or treat them as 
rumour, they represent the emergence of a form of social temporality 
that is iterative and indeterminate. The circulation of the chapatis consti- 
tutes an interesting problem for the agency of historical discourse. The 
representation of panic and rumour participates in that complex tempor- 
ality of social 'contingency' with which I have attempted to stain the 
clear waters of causality. The chain of communication in the rumour, its 
semantic content, is transformed in transmission, but despite exagger- 
ation, hyperbole and imprecision, the messages are syntactically 'con- 
tiguous' (see p. 186). 

The indeterminacy of rumour constitutes its importance as a social 
discourse. Its intersubjective, communal adhesiveness lies in its enunci- 
ative aspect. Its performative power of circulation results in the con- 
tagious spreading, 'an almost uncontrollable impulse to pass it on to 
another person'. 7 The iterative action of rumour, its circulation and con- 
tagion, links it with panic - as one of the affects of insurgency. Rumour 
and panic are, in moments of social crises, double sites of enunciation 
that weave their stories around the disjunctive 'present' or the 'not- 
there' of discourse. My point here is close to Ashis Nandy's strictures 
on Western historicism in his essay 'Towards a Third World Utopia'. 
The suffering of Third World' societies, according to Nandy, creates an 
attitude to its history which shares some of the orientations of semiotics 
and psychoanalysis. 

For the dynamics of history, according to these disciplines [is not] 
an unalterable past moving towards an inexorable future; it is in 
the ways of thinking and in the choices of present time . . . anti- 
memories at that level [that] allow greater play and lesser defensive 
rigidity. 8 

The indeterminate circulation of meaning as rumour or conspiracy, with 
its perverse, psychic affects of panic, constitutes the intersubjective realm 
of revolt and resistance. What kind of agency is constituted in the 
circulation of the chapati? 

Time, I believe, is of the essence. For it is the circulation of the 
chapati that initiates a politics of agency negotiated in the antagonisms 
of colonial cultural difference. 



Let us take Sir John Kaye's description of the phenomenon in his 
monumental History of the Indian Mutiny vol. 1, written in 1864, based 
on the most extensive research in contemporary sources, including corre- 
spondence with participants in the Mutiny. Ranajit Guha draws on Kaye 
for his exemplary work on rumour in the popular peasant context of 
the Mutiny. A hundred years later, in Sen's 'official' history of the Indian 
Mutiny, Kaye's presence is stall felt: 

It fixed, too, more firmly in the mind of Lord Canning, the belief 
that a great fear was spreading itself among the people, and that 
there was more danger in such a feeling than in great hatred. Thinking 
of this he also thought of another strange story that had come to 
him from the North-West, and which even the most experienced 
men about him were incompetent to explain. From village to vil- 
lage, brought by one messenger and sent onward by another, 
passed a mysterious token in the shape of those flat cakes made 
from flour and water, and forming the common bread of the 
people, which in their language, are called chapatis. All that was 
known about it was that a messenger appeared, gave the cake to 
the headman of one village, and requested him to despatch it 
onward to the next; and that in this way it travelled from place to 
place; no one refusing, no one doubting, few even questioning in 
blind obedience to a necessity felt rather than understood. . . . The 
greater number looked upon it as a signal of warning and prep- 
aration, designed to tell the people that something great and por- 
tentous was about to happen, and to prompt them to be ready for 
the crisis. One great authority wrote to the Governor-general that 
he had been told that the chapati was the symbol of men's food, 
and that its circulation was intended to alarm and to influence 
men's minds by indicating to them that their means of subsistence 
would be taken from them, and to tell them therefore, to hold 
together. Others laughing to scorn this notion of the fiery cross, 
saw in it only a common superstition of the country. It was said 
that it was no unwonted thing for a Hindu, in whose family 
sickness had broken out, to institute this transmission of chapatis, 
in the belief that it would carry off the disease. Then, again, it was 
believed by others . . . that the purpose attaching to the circulation 
[of the chapatis] was another fiction, that there was bone dust in 
them, and that the English had resorted to this supplementary 
method of defiling the people. . . . But whatsoever the real history 
of the movement, it had doubtless the effect of keeping alive much 
popular excitement in the districts through which the cakes were 

transmitted Some saw in it much meaning; some saw none. 

Time has thrown no new light upon it. Opinions still differ. And 



all that History can record with any certainty is, that the bearers 
of these strange missives went from place to place, and as ever as 
they went new excitements were engendered, and vague expec- 
tations were raised. 9 (My emphasis) 

It is the indeterminacy of meaning, unleashed by the contingent chapati 
that becomes the totem meal for historians of the Mutiny. They bite the 
greased bullet and circulate the myth of the chapati. In so doing, they 
pass on the contagion of rumour and panic into their own serial, sensible 
narratives that become unsettled in that very act of repetition. Kaye's 
description of the 'undecidability' that attended the interpretation of the 
event articulates a temporality of meaning - 'some saw . . . much mean- 
ing: some saw none' - that would be easy to discount as mere empirical 
description or reportage. But the rhetorical uncertainty between perspec- 
tives, the contingency of meaning that circulates in the compulsive 
repetition of the chapati, is an expression of a wider historical unease. 
What accompanies this problem of historical interpretation is the panic 
unleashed not simply by the 'rural' ritual of the circulation of the chapati 
but by its inscription as the performative 'present' of the days and 
nights of the Mutiny, its quotidian mythology, that is also the stuff of 
historical description. 

The discursive figure of rumour produces an infectious ambivalence, 
an 'abyssal overlapping', of too much meaning and a certain meaning- 
lessness. The semiotic condition of uncertainty and panic is generated 
when an old and familiar symbol (chapati) develops an unfamiliar social 
significance as sign through a transformation of the temporality of its 
representation. The performative time of the chapati's signification, 
its circulation as 'conspiracy' and/or 'insurgency', tums from the cus- 
tomary and commonplace to the archaic, awesome, terrifying. This rein- 
scription of a traditional system of organization through the disturbance, 
or interruption, of the circulation of its cultural codes (whereupon 'new 
excitements were engendered, and vague expectations were raised'), 
bears a marked similarity to the conjunctural history of the Mutiny. 

The slender narrative of the chapati symbolizes, in its performative 
rhetoric of circulation/panic, those wider contextual conditions of the 
1857 Rebellion that Eric Stokes has suggestively described as a 'crisis of 
displacement', 10 in his fine essay on the agrarian context of that Rebel- 
lion. The obsessive fear of religious contagion and the extreme suspicion 
of the Government is symptomatic of a desperate soldiery clinging to 
its own traditions with a renewed fervour in the face of new regulations 
for the control and modernization of the native army, of which the 
Enfield rifle was only the most obvious symbol. The levelling zeal of 
the Government to liberate the peasant from the taluqdar (landlord) 
and the infamous annexation of the kingdom of Oudh, amongst other 



smaller principalities, created a sense of social dislocation that had its 
effects within an army consisting mainly of high-caste peasant mercenar- 
ies. The 20th Bengal Native Infantry that raised the rebellion in Meerut 
in May 1857 consisted mainly of Rajput and Brahmin petty landholders 
from southern Oudh. The influx of lower castes and outsiders into their 
ranks as a result of the radical 'levelling' policies of the Government - 
as Philip Mason has described" - led to such a widespread sense of the 
confusion of status and reference, that in the midst of the Mutiny, in 
October 1857, an officer wrote to the Lahore Chronicle publicly warning 
that 'a ploughman is not a subadar because he is styled so, and an 
indian nobleman or gentleman is not the less so because we treat him 
as a tradesman.' 12 

I have prised open, once more, the space between the symbol of the 
chapati and the sign of its circulation in order to reveal rumour's affect. 
It is 'panic' that speaks in the temporal caesura between symbol and 
sign, politicizing the narrative; the agency of politics obscurely contained 
in the contagion of chapati flour, or in the more revealing castratory 
fantasies of the former governor-general Ellenborough 'to emasculate 
all the mutineers and to call Delhi Eunuchabad'. 13 If we read Kaye's 
account, from its space of undecidability, we find that panic mounts in 
its phrases, producing the kinetic tension of the contingency of the 
historical event itself. His narrative attempts to relate the chapatis con- 
tiguously to historical or cultural events in a metonymic series: common- 
bread: portentous event: deprivation of subsistence (reorganization of 
army, land resettlement, abrogation of taluqdar's rights and privileges): 
fiery cross: passing on the malady (ritual peasant practice of chalawa or 
scapegoating an animal in order to rid the community of epidemics): 
religious defilement (Enfield rifle, greased bullet paper). What articulates 
these sites of cultural difference and social antagonism, in the absence 
of the validity of interpretation, is a discourse of panic that suggests 
that psychic affect and social fantasy are potent forms of political identi- 
fication and agency for guerilla warfare. So Kaye, citing Canning, can 
say that 'there was more danger in such a feeling [of the spreading of 
fear] than in great hatred'; that the circulation of the chapatis was 'a 
necessity Jelt rather than understood'; and, finally, that the circulation 
was intended to influence through alarm and thereby hold together the 
people. Whatsoever be the real history of the event, the political purpose 
of rumour, panic and the circulating chapati is to 'keep alive much 
popular excitement'. 

Panic spreads. It does not simply hold together the native people 
but binds them affectively, if antagonistically - through the process of 
projection - with their masters. In Kaye's rendering of Canning's 
account, it is the passages of panic that are written neither simply 
from the native point of view, nor from the superior interpretative, 



'administrative' perspective of Lord Canning. While he largely attributes 
fear and panic to a 'pre-literate' native mind, its superstition and misap- 
prehensions, its 'pre-formed' psychological and political pliability, the 
genre of 'intelligence gathering' that constitutes the discourse is proof of 
the fact that the fear was not limited to the peasants. The indeterminacy 
of the event reveals the panic amongst the bureaucrats, and within the 
army, which can be read in the anxious, conflicting opinions that Can- 
ning musters. By projecting the panic and anxiety on native custom and 
ethnic particularity, the British attempted to contain and 'objectify' their 
anxiety, finding a ready 'native' reference for the undecidable event that 
afflicted them. This is clearly seen in the rhetorical split in Kaye's 
passage where the subjects of the narrative (enonce) are natives, but the 
subjects of the act of enunciation - experienced men, one great authority, 
others laughing, others believing - are 'British' authorities, whether they 
are part of the administration or Indian spies. It is at the enunciative 
level that the humble chapati circulates both a panic of knowledge 
and power. The great spreading of fear more dangerous than anger, is 
equivocal, circulating wildly on both sides. It spreads beyond the knowl- 
edge of ethnic or cultural binarisms and becomes a new, hybrid space 
of cultural difference in the negotiation of colonial power-relations. 
Beyond the barracks and the bungalow opens up an antagonistic, 
ambiguous area of engagement that provides, in a perverse way, a 
common battleground that gives the sipahi a tactical advantage. 

What lesson does the circulation of panic - the 'time' of the chapati 
- have for historical agency? 

If the chapati is read only for its ontological cultural origins - in the 
historical order of the symbol - then the result is a cultural binarism 
that evades the real contagion of the political panic of the Mutiny. This 
avoids the hybridization of points of reference that create the possibility 
of a war of nerves and sporadic guerilla action (as the sipahis generally 
conceived it). To see the chapati as an 'internal', orderly transformation 
from the symbol of pollution to politics, reproduces the binary between 
the peasant and the raj, and denies the particular historical agency of the 
sipahi, which as Stokes has repeatedly shown, succeeded by 'stratagem 
not arms'. By disavowing the politics of indeterminacy and panic, the 
collective agency of the insurgent peasant is given a simplistic sense of 
intentionality. The mutineers are located in a semi-feudal time-warp, the 
playthings of religious conspiracies. Rewriting Kaye's splendid account 
of Canning twenty-five years later, in the fifth volume of the History, 
his prosaic successor Malleson produces the interesting myth of 
Mohamedan conspiracy and, unwittingly, 'authorizes' the chapatis. The 
treacherous tracery of the chapatis across the north-west provinces fol- 
lows the path of the Maulvi of Faizabad, one of the few conspirators 
known by name. Like the chapati he travelled extensively in the 



north-west after the annexation of Oudh, 'on a mission which was a 
mystery to the Europeans'. Like the chapati, the Maulvi's circulation 
had its ramifications 'at Delhi, at Mirath, at Patna, and at Calcutta'! 14 

If, however, we follow the discourse of panic, the affectivity of histori- 
cal understanding, then we encounter a temporal 'speed' of historical 
events that leads to an understanding of rebel agency. The chapati's 
circulation bears a contingent relation to the time-lag or temporal break 
in-between sign and symbol, constitutive of the representation of the 
intersubjective realm of meaning and action. Contemporary historical 
accounts stress a similar temporality in suggesting that the spread and 
solidarity of insurgency was effected with an almost 'timeless' speed; a 
temporality that cannot be represented except as the 'repetition' of the 
chapatis and their ensuing uncertainty or panic. 

Lieutenant Martineau, the Musketry Inspector at Umballa Rifle Depot, 
was responsible for training native infantrymen in the use of the Enfield 
rifle. Having been terrorized by an occurrence of the chapati-flour omen 
in his own ranks, he writes in desperation to General Belcher about the 
state of the army on 5 May 1857, just five days before the Mutiny broke 
at Meerut. His apprehensions have largely been ignored and his demand 
for a Court of Inquiry to investigate the unusual agitation in the ranks, 
has been turned down. His is an obscure but representative voice and 
bears a fine witness to the link between the circulation of panic and its 
representation as a 'cut' in time or an instant shock: 

Everywhere far and near the army under some maddening impulse 
are looking out with strained expectation for something, some 
unseen, invisible agency has caused one common electric thrill to 
run through all. ... I don't think they know what they will do, or 
that they have any plan of action except of resistance to invasion 
of their religion and their faith. 15 (My emphasis) 

In retelling the chapati tale as a major instance of the transmission of 
insurgency, Ranajit Guha associates the speed of the transmission 
of rebellion with the 'psychosis of dominant social groups' 16 confronted 
suddenly with the rebellion of those considered loyal. Guha uses this 
moment, in which he mentions both time and psychic affect, as the 
basis on which to make an important observation on subaltern agency: 

What the pillars of society fail to grasp is that the organizing 
principle lies in nothing other than their own dominance. For it is 
the subjection of the rural masses to a common source of exploita- 
tion and oppression that makes them rebel even before they learn 
to combine in peasant associations. And once a struggle has been 
engaged in, it is again this negative condition of their social existence 



rather than any revolutionary consciousness which enables the 
peasantry to rise above localism. 17 (My emphasis) 

In locating the emergence of rebel agency in the 'negative condition' of 
social existence, Guha refers to 'social psychosis' as part of the structure 
of insurgency. It corroborates my suggestion that the organizing prin- 
ciple of the sign of the chapati is constituted in the transmission of fear 
and anxiety, projection and panic in a form of circulation in-between the 
colonizer and the colonized. Could the agency of peasant rebellion be 
constituted through the 'partial incorporation' of the fantasy and fear 
of the Master? And if that is possible, doesn't the site of rebellion, the 
subject of insurgent agency, become a site of cultural hybridity rather 
than a form of negative consciousness? 

The link I'm attempting to make between the speedy time of panic 
and the break-up of a binary sense of political antagonism resonates 
with an important insight of the psychoanalyst Wilfrid Bion, on the 
place of panic in the fight-flight group, of which war and the army are 
examples. The psychosis of the group consists in the reversibility or 
interchangeability of panic and anger. This ambivalence is part of the 
group structured within a time-lag similar to the process I described as 
the 'individuation' of agency (see pp. 189-92): 'His inalienable inheri- 
tance as a group animal gives rise to a feeling in the individual that he 
can never catch up with a course of events to which he is always, at any 
given moment, already committed." 8 It is this disjunctive structure 
within and between groups that prevents us from representing oppo- 
sitionality in the equivalence of a binary structure. Where anger and 
panic arise they are stimulated by an event, Bion writes, that always 
falls outside the functions of the group. 

How are we to understand this notion of falling 'outside' in relation 
to the discourse of panic? I want to suggest that we understand this 
'outside' not in simple spatial terms but as constitutive of meaning and 
agency. The 'outside event' could also be the unacknowledged liminality 
or 'margin' of a discourse, the point where it contingently touches the 
'others' discourse as itself. This sense of a discursive 'outside' is articu- 
lated in the passages of panic in Kaye's account of the chapati. They 
occupy a space in his narrative where meaning is undecidable, and the 
'subject' of discourse split and doubled between native informer and 
colonial 'enunciator'. What is represented and fixed as native panic at 
the level of content or propositionality (enonce) is, at the level of narra- 
tive positionality (enunciation), the spreading, uncontrolled fear and fan- 
tasy of the colonizer. 

A contingent, borderline experience opens up in-between colonizer and 
colonized. This is a space of cultural and interpretive undecidability 
produced in the 'present' of the colonial moment. Such an 'outside' is 



also visible in my insistence that the chapati's meaning as circulation 
only emerges in the time-lag, or temporal break, in-between its social- 
symbolic ordering and its iterative repetition as the sign of the undecid- 
able, the terrifying. Isn't this Kaye's very predicament when he says 
that 'all that History can record with any certainty is, that . . . these 
strange missives went from place to place.' Yet it is this temporal process 
of the : transmission of rebel agency about which he chooses to say 
nothing. So the moment of political panic, as it is turned into historical 
narrative, is a movement that breaks down the stereotomy of inside/ 
outside. In so doing it reveals the contingent process of the inside turn- 
ing into, the outside and producing another hybrid site or sign. Lacan 
calls this kind of inside/out/outside/in space a moment of extimite: a 
traumatic moment of the 'not-there' (Morrison) or the indeterminate or 
the unknowable (Kaye) around which the symbolic discourse of human 
history comes to be constituted. In that sense, then, the extimate moment 
would be the 'repetition' of rumour in the seriality of the historical 
event (1857), the 'speed' of panic at the site of rebel politics, or indeed, 
the temporality of psychoanalysis in the writing of history, 
f The margin of hybridity, where cultural differences 'contingently! and 
Wnflictually Jouch, becomes the moment of panic which reveals the 
^idelrlmeexperience. It resists the binary opposition of racial and cul- 
tural groups, sipahis and sahibs, as homogeneous polarized political 
consciousnesses. The political psychosis of panic constitutes the bound- 
ary of cultural hybridity across which the Mutiny is fought. The native 
order of Indian symbols, their indigenous ethnic reference 'inside' are 
displaced and turned inside-out; they become the circulating signs of an 
'English' panic, disavowed by the official discourse of imperial history, 
represented in the language of indeterminacy. The chapati then is also 
a displacement of, and defence against, the Enfield rifle; made of flour 
contaminated with bone-meal and shaped like 'English ships-biscuits' 
the chapatis are a heterogeneous, hybrid sign. They suggest, according 
to the advocate-general, that the conspirators were imputing that army 
chaplains were trying to impose 'one food one faith'. 19 In these sudden, 
slender signs of panic, we see a complex cultural writing of rebel agency 
in 1857 that Eric Stokes has expanded into a wider, more traditional 

Much of what passes for primary resistance occurs at the onset of 
local crisis when the first phase of collaboration has gone sour. 
The internal configuration of society has already been altered by 
the yeast of modernity, so that the local crisis is as much an internal 
as an external one and reflects the strains of dislocation and dis- 
placement. 20 

It is the temporality of the historical event as an internal (psychic, 



affective) instance and an external (political, institutional, governmental) 
occurrence that I have been trying to explore within the wider dialectic 
of the sipahi and the raj. It has been my argument that historical agency 
is no less effective because it rides on the disjunctive or displaced 
circulation of rumour and panic. Would such an ambivalent borderline 
of hybridity prevent us from specifying a political strategy or identifying 
a historical event? 

On the contrary, it would enhance our understanding of certain forms 
of political struggle. After all my mad talk about group-psychosis and 
flying chapatis let us take a sober, historical example. In one of the last 
chapters that Stokes wrote on the Indian Mutiny before his death - 'The 
sepoy rebels' - he displays an almost hyperreal sense of the contingency 
of time and event caught like a slow motion replay of the Mutiny itself. 
Stokes came 'increasingly to emphasize the importance of the contingent 
events of military action in his account of the incidence and spread of 
the revolt', writes C. A. Bayly in his afterword to The Peasant Armed. 
He came to see the importance of the 'human drama and the mythology 
of revolt . . . those contingent, almost accidental features of the revolt 
that also help to explain the puzzle of its timing in relation to longer- 
term trends in north Indian history'. 21 This new emphasis on the contin- 
gent and the symbolic is particularly visible in a fine passage where 
Stokes writes: 

An Army wore out like clothing and needed frequent renewal. 
Its tatterdemalion appearance was also of more than symbolic 
significance. In the hour of desperation the British might dispense 
with regular uniform and strict puntilio, but once the crisis was 
passed and their regiments multiplied, their military practice tight- 
ened rather than relaxed For the sepoys the abandonment of 
shakos and jackets might have been sensible for ease of fighting, 
but it helps obliterate distinction of company and regiment and 
turned them increasingly from regular soldiers into civil 
insurgents. 22 

Seen from the perspective of the outcome of the rebellion Stokes is 
surely right to assert, as he does repeatedly, that the defeat of the rebels 
came from the 'absence of a tactical plan or controlling mind and of 
disciplined organization to press home the assault'. 23 Stokes is impec- 
cable in his understanding of the disciplines of the regular soldier and 
the guerilla tactics of the civil insurgent, but his adherence to a certain 
notion of the 'controlling mind' does not permit him to see the doubled, 
displaced strategy of sepoy-as/and-civil insurgent. With my taste for 
in-between states and moments of hybridity I shall briefly attempt to 
describe that inside-out movement when the sepoy and the civil insur- 
gent are two sites of the subject in the same moment of historical agency. 



Of the very few contemporary 'native' narratives available, written 
from the scene of battle, Munshee Mohan Lai's account of an overheard 
conversation between a Mohamedan trooper of the influential 3rd Cav- 
alry and Sir William Nott's sepoy orderly, is the best. Despite his func- 
tion as a spy with an obvious interest in suggesting a Mohamedan 
conspiracy, his account provides valuable corroborative evidence. In the 
attorney-general's account of Mohan Lai's evidence the drama and 
the 'controlling mind' of the rebel action have been reduced to treachery 
and conspiracy. If we return to Mohan Lai's original letter written in 
November 1857, we read quite a different story. 

It was on the release of their friends and comrades from the Meerut 
prison that the mutineers decided on the siege of Delhi. The famous 
cry of 'Chalo Delhi' - Onwards to Delhi! - does not simply provide 'an 
immediate loose-knit unity to excited and distracted men' 24 as Stokes 
describes it. The rebel account makes quite clear that it was only after 
they tested their strength as a fighting body, and symbolically burned 
the houses of the 'saheb logue' that they called a meeting to decide 
what their next move would be. They decided against Rohilcund in the 
direction of Agra, because they could not take enough defensive posi- 
tions on the way. 'After clam [sic] and deliberate consideration Delhi 
was named and resolved to make the headquarters' 25 for tactical military 
and political reasons: 'the annihilation of the few English and Christian 
residents . . . the possession of the magazine, and the person of the 

It is the 'person' of the king that constitutes the most interesting rebel 
strategy. To centralize the rebellion in Delhi - a tactic that was to fail in 
the long run - was a way of providing an affective focus for the Mutiny, 
to establish it within the public political sphere. 'The name of the king 
will work like magic and induce the distant states to mutiny,' the 
soldiers reason. This public affirmation of power is necessary because 
they (the natives) are aware of the problems of conspiratorial communi- 
cation. 'The sepoy said that he had witnessed the artful modes of General 
Nott to conceal and forward his letters during the Cabool disasters to 
Sindh and Cabool, such acts of ours will not escape their attention' 26 - 
which is to say, of course, that General Nott's secret letters were bazaar 
talk, just as the chapatis became the staple fare of Government House. 

The body of the king has another destiny in the political strategy of 
the mutineers. They contrived to bring out Bahadur Shah in a royal 
procession to 'restore confidence in the citizens'. Then, surrounded by 
'disciplined troops' and 'respectable residents', whether jagirdars or 
merchants, the king as spectacle becomes that name that can work like 
magic. This magic is worked by a deliberate narrative strategy - rumour. 
When the king assumes his public persona, then the mutineers 'excited 
his ambition' by exaggerated stories of ranged regiments bearing 



treasures from various stations . . . that all European troops were 
engaged in Persia . . . that the unsettled state of European politics would 
hardly permit the home authorities to reach any reinforcement to India. 
This magic of narrative made the king assume his name, not the other 
way round: 'made Bahadur Shah to believe that he had been bom to 
restore the lost realm of the great Taimoor in the last days of his life. 
He now threw off the mask and took interest in encouraging the rebellion.' 27 

The sepoy as civil insurgent, that tatterdemalion figure, creates his 
hybrid narratives from a number of slender tales: the political secrecy 
of the 'saheb logue'; the late medieval inscription of the body of the 
king; the Mughal durbar ritual of khelat, a gift of clothing through which 
loyal subjects are 'incorporated' 28 into the body of the king; rumours of 
English politics; and, of course, the vanity of human wishes and the 
messianic desires of crowds. I want to tug once more at the ragged coat 
of the rebel and draw a tattered thread that takes my story from this 
public political moment to its other slender narrative, panic. From the 
body of the Mughal I want to move back to the body of the sipahi, by 
way of a time lag; from the Mutiny of 1857 and its chapatis to the 
Vellore Mutiny of 1806 and its topi. 

After the reorganization of the Madras Army in 1796, all the tra- 
ditional accoutrements of the native soldier's appearance were effaced. 
Ear-rings and caste-marks were obliterated, the turban forbidden. The 
sipahi was shaved and dressed 'in a stiff round hat, like a pariah 
drummer's with a flat top, a leather cockade and a standing feather'. 29 
In the eyes of his countrymen the soldier became a 'topiwalla', a hat- 
wearer, synonymous with being a 'firinghi' or Christian. Rumours began 
to circulate about an imminent conversion of Hindus and Muslims to 
Christianity through the contagion of the leather hat. In those anxious 
times wandering mendicants 'with the odour of sanctified filth about 
them' told strange stories and incredible fables, within the military lines. 
The unmistakable stirrings of panic could be heard, swiftly carried on 
the wings of anger, through the bazaars, the countryside, the barracks. 
Just before the great massacre at Vellore of 10 July 1806 of which the 
history books tell us, an event occurred that was so common that recent 
historians seem to have forgotten it. 

As the soldiers in their new 'firinghi' topis and uniforms mingled 
with the palace servants and retainers of the Mysore princes, their 
traditional protectors, they were jeered and humiliated: 

The different parts of their uniform were curiously examined 
amidst shrugs and other expressive gestures, and significant 'Wah 
wahs!' and vague hints that everything about them in some way 
portended Christianity. They looked at the Sipahi's stock and said, 
'What is this? It is leather! WELL!' Then they would look at his 



belt and tell him that it made a cross upon his person. But it was 
the round hat that most of all was the object of the taunts and 
warnings of the people of the palace. 'It only needed this to make 
you altogether a firinghi. Take care or we shall all soon be made 
Christians . . . and then the whole country will be ruined. 30 

When the body of the sipahi comes to be hybridized in the circulation 
of cryptic omens, then new 'firinghi' uniforms become the source of 
primal fears. The fiery cross turns into a high hat or a flat, unleavened 
bread. The 'yeast of modernity' causes archaic fears to arise; political 
signs and contagious portents inhabit the body of the people. Is this 
panic, written on the sipahi's skin, the omen that sends rumour and 
rebellion on their flight? Is this the narrative of 'native' hysteria? Beyond 
these questions you can hear the storm break. The rest is History. 




Postmodern space, postcolonial times and 
the trials of cultural translation 

Translation passes through continua of transformation, not abstract ideas 
of identity and similarity. 

Walter Benjamin, 'On language as such and the language of man' 


It is radical perversity, not sage political wisdom, that drives the 
intriguing will to knowledge of postcolonial discourse. Why else do you 
think the long shadow of Conrad's Heart of Darkness falls on so many 
texts of the postcolonial pedagogy?' Marlow has much in him of the 
anti-foundationalist, the metropolitan ironist who believes that the neo- 
pragmatic universe is best preserved by keeping the conversation of 
humankind going. And so he does, in that intricate end-game that is 
best known to readers of the novel as the 'lie' to the Intended. Although 
the African wilderness has followed him into the lofty drawing-room 
of Europe, with its spectral, monumental whiteness, despite the dusk 
that menacingly whispers 'the Horror, the Horror', Marlow's narrative 
keeps faith with the gendered conventions of a civil discourse where 
women are blinded because they see too much reality, and novels end 
because they cannot bear too much fictionality. Marlow keeps the con- 
versation going, suppresses the horror, gives history the lie - the white 
lie - and waits for the heavens to fall. But, as he says, the heavens do 
not fall for such a trifle. 

The global link between colony and metropolis, so central to the 
ideology of imperialism, is articulated in Kurtz's emblematic words - 
'the Horror, the Horror!' The unreadability of these Conradian runes 
has attracted much interpretive attention, precisely because their depths 
contain no truth that is not perfectly visible on the 'outside, enveloping 
the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze.' 2 Marlow 
does not merely repress the 'truth' - however multivocal and multi- 
valent it may be - as much as he enacts a poetics of translation that 



(be)sets the boundary between the colony and the metropolis. In taking 
the name of a woman - the Intended - to mask the daemonic 'being' of 
colonialism, Marlow turns the brooding geography of political disaster - 
the heart of darkness - into a melancholic memorial to romantic love 
arid historic memory. Between the silent truth of Africa and the salient 
He to the metropolitan woman, Marlow returns to his initiating insight: 
the experience of colonialism is the problem of living in the 'midst of 
the incomprehensible'. 3 

It is this incomprehensibility i n the midst of the locutions of colon - 
izatior^ that echoes with Toni Morrison's insight into the 'chaos' 4 that 
afflicts the signification of psychic and historical narratives in racialized 
societies. It reson ates^Jo o, with Wilson Harris's evocation, in thp rarih- 
bean conte xt, of 'a certain void of misgiving attending every assimilation 
o f contraries ... an alien ter ritory^ and wildernness [th at ] has become_a 
necessity for one's~reason or salvation'. 5 Is this acknowledgement of 
a necessary anxiety in constructing a transformative, postcolonial knowl- 
edge of the 'global' - at the metropolitan site - a salutary warning against 
travelling theory? For as the dusk gathers in that drawing-room of 
Europe, and Marlow attempts to create a narrative that would link the 
life of the Intended and Kurtz's dark heart, caught in a split truth or a 
double frame, he can only tell the infamous, intended lie: yes, Kurtz 
died with the name of his Intended on his lips. The horror may be 
averted in the decorum of words - 'It would have been too dark - too 
dark altogether' 6 - but it avenges the structure of the narrative itself. 

Marlow's inward gaze now beholds the everyday reality of the West- 
ern metropolis through the veil of the colonial fantasm; the local story 
of love and its domestic memory can only be told between the lines of 
history's tragic repressions. The white woman, the Intended, becomes 
the shadow of the African woman; the street of tall houses takes on the 
profile of the tribal skulls on staves; the percussive pounding of a heart 
echoes the deep beat of drums - 'the heart of a conquering darkness'. 
When this discourse of a daemonic doubling emerges at the very centre 
of metropolitan life, then the familiar things of everyday life and letters 
are marked by an irresistible sense of their genealogical difference, a 
'postcolonial' provenance. 

Writing of the notion of the 'self in moral space', in his recent book 
Sources of the Self, Charles Taylor sets temporal limits to the problem of 
personhood: 'the supposition that I could be two temporally succeeding 
selves is either an overdramatized image, or quite false. It runs against 
the structural features of a self as a being who exists in a space of 
concerns.' 7 Such 'overdramatized' images are precisely my concern as I 
attempt to negotiate narratives where double-lives are led in the postcol- 
onial world, with its journeys of migration and its dwellings of the 
diasporic. These subjects of study require the experience of anxiety to 



be incorporated into the analytic construction of the object of critical 
attention: narratives of the borderline conditions of cultures and disci- 
plines. For anxiety is the affective address of 'a world [that] reveals 
itself as caught up in the space between frames; a doubled frame or 
one that is split', 8 as Samuel Weber describes the symbolic structure of 
psychic anxiety itself. And the long shadow cast by Heart of Darkness 
on the world of postcolonial studies is itself a double symptom of 
pedagogical anxiety: a necessary caution against generalizing the contin- 
gencies and contours of local circumstance, at the very moment at which 
a transnational, 'migrant' knowledge of the world is most urgently 

Any discussion of cultural theory in the context of globalization would 
be incomplete without a reading of Fredric JamesoiVs brilliant, if unruly 
essay, 'Secondary elaborations', 9 the conclusion to his collected volume 
Postmodernism Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. No other Marxist 
critic has so dauntlessly redirected the movement of the materialist 
dialectic, away from its centralization in the State and its idealized 
aesthetic and disciplinary categories, towards the wayward, uncharted 
spaces of the cityscape, allegorized in its media images and its vernacu- 
lar visions. This has led Jameson to suggest that the demographic and 
phenomenblogical impact of minorities and migrants within the West 
may be crucial in conceiving of the transnational character of contempor- 
ary culture. 

The 'postmodern', for Jameson, is a doubly inscribed designation. 
As the naming of a historical event - late multinational capitalism - 
postmodernity provides the periodizing narrative of the global trans- 
formations of capital. But this developmental schema is radically dis- 
rupted by the postmodern as an aesthetic-ideological process of 
signifying the 'subject' of the historical event. Jameson uses the language 
of psychoanalysis (the breakdown of the signifying chain in psychosis) 
to provide a genealogy for the subject of postmodern cultural fragmen- 
tation. Inverting the influential Althusserian edict on the 'imaginary' 
ideological capture of the subject, Jameson insists that it is the schizoid 
or 'split' subject that articulates, with the greatest intensity, the disjunc- 
tion of time and being that characterizes the social syntax of the post- 
modem condition: 

the breakdown of temporality [that] suddenly releases this present 
of time from all the activities and intentionalities that might focus 
it and make it a space of praxis . . . engulf[ing] the subject with 
undescribable vividness, a materiality of perception properly 

overwhelming This present of the world or material signifier 

comes before the subject with heightened intensity, bearing a mys- 



terious charge or affect . . . which one could just as well imagine 
in the positive terms of euphoria, a high, an intoxicator. (p. 27) 

This central passage from an earlier essay, 'The cultural logic of late 
capitalism', 10 is exemplary amongst Marxist readings of poststructur- 
alism for transforming the 'schizophrenic disjunction' (p. 29) of cultural 
style, into a politically effective discursive space. The recourse to psycho- 
analysis has implications that go beyond Jameson's suggestive, meta- 
phoric linkages. Psychoanalytic temporality, I would argue, invests the 
utterance of the 'present' - its displaced times, its affective intensities - 
with cultural and political value. Placed in the scenario of the 
unconscious, the 'present' is neither the mimetic sign of historical 
contemporaneity (the immediacy of experience), nor is it the visible 
terminus of the historical past (the teleology of tradition). Jameson 
repeatedly attempts to rum rhetorical and temporal disjunction into a 
poetics of praxis. His reading of a poem, 'China', illustrates what it 
means to establish 'a primacy of the present sentence in time, ruthlessly 
disintegrating] the narrative fabric that attempts to reform around it' 
(p. 28). Even a brief fragment of the poem will convey this sense of the 
'signifier of the present' wresting the movement of history to represent 
the struggle of its making: 

We live on the third world from the sun. Number three. Nobody 
tells us what to do. 

The people who taught us how to count were being very kind. 
It's always time to leave. 

If it rains, you either have your umbrella or you don't. 

What Jameson finds in these 'sentence(s) in free standing isolation', 
athwart the disarticulate spaces that utter the present, each time again 
and anew, is 

the reemergence here across these disjoined sentences of some 

more unified global meaning [It] does seem to capture 

something of the excitement of the immense, unfinished social 
experiment of the New China - unparalleled in world history - 
the unexpected emergence between the two superpowers of 'number 
three' . . . ; the signal event, above all, of a collectivity which has 
become a new 'subject of history' and which, after the long subjec- 
tion of feudalism and imperialism, again speaks in its own voice, 
for itself, as if for the first time. (p. 29) 

The Horror! the Horror! Almost a century after Heart of Darkness we 
have returned to that act of living in the midst of the 'incomprehensible', 
that Conrad associated with the production of transcultural narratives 



in the colonial world. From these disjoined postimperial sentences, that 
bear the anxiety of reference and representation - 'undescribable vivid- 
ness ... a materiality of perception, properly overwhelming' - there 
emerges the need for a global analysis of culture. Jameson perceives a 
new international culture in the perplexed passing of modernity into 
postmodemity, emphasizing the transnational attenuation of 'local' 

I take such spatial peculiarities as symptoms and expressions of a 
new and historically original dilemma, one that involves our inser- 
tion as individual subjects into a multidimensional set of radical 
discontinuous realities, whose frames range from the still surviving 
spaces of bourgeois private life all the way to the unimaginable 
decentring of global capital itself . . . the so-called death of the 
subject . . . the fragmented and schizophrenic decentring [of the 
Self], . . . the crisis of socialist internationalism, and the enormous 
tactical difficulties of coordinating local . . . political actions with 
national or international ones, such urgent political dilemmas are 
all immediately functions of the new international space in ques- 
tion, (p. 413) 

My rendition of Jameson, edited with ellipses that create a Conradian 
foreboding, reveals the anxiety of enjoining the global and the local; the 
dilemma of projecting an international space on the trace of a decentred, 
fragmented subject. Cultural globality is figured in the in-between spaces 
of double-frames: its historical originality marked by a cognitive obscur- 
ity; its decentred 'subject' signified in the nervous temporality of the 
transitional, or the emergent provisionality of the 'present'. The turning 
of the globe into a theoretical project splits and doubles the analytic 
discourse in which it is embedded, as the developmental narrative of 
late capitalism encounters its fragmented postmodern persona, and the 
materialist identity of Marxism is uncannily rearticulated in the psychic 
non-identities of psychoanalysis. Jameson is, indeed, a kind of Marlow 
in search of the aura of Ernest Mandel, stumbling upon, not Towson's 
Almanac, but Lefebvre, Baudrillard and Kevin Lynch. The architecture 
of Jameson's argument is like a theme-park of an imperilled post- 
Althusserian phenomenological Marxism of which he is both the master- 
builder and the most brilliant bricoleur, the heroic saviour and the savvy 
salvage merchant. 

Whether it is the emergence of new historical subjects in China or, 
somewhat later, the new international space in question, the argument 
moves intriguingly beyond the ken of Jameson's theoretical description 
of the sign of the 'present'. The radical discontinuity that exists between 
bourgeois private life and the 'unimaginable' decentring of global capital 
does not find its scheme of representation in the spatial position or the 



representational visibility of the free-standing, disjoined sentences, to 
which Jameson insistently draws our attention. WbatjoaustJbe_mapp£d_ 
as a new international space of discontinuous historical realities. i§,„in 
fact, the problem of signifying the interstitial passages and prpcesses of 
cultural difference that are inscribed in the 'in-between', in the temporal 
break-up that weaves the 'global' text. It is, ironically, the disintegrative 
moment, even movement, of enunciation - that sudden disjunction of 
Jhe— present-- that makes possible the rendering of culture's global 
r£ach. ^nd / j»axadoxically, it is only through a structure of splitting and 
displacement - 'the fragmented and schizophrenic decentring of the 
self.' - that the architecture of the new historical subject emerges. Jit 
the limits of representation itself, to enable a situational representation 
on the part of the individual to that vaster and unrepresentable- totality 
which is the ensemble of society's structures as a whole' (my emphasis) 
(p. 51). 

In exploring this relation to the 'unrepresentable' as a domain of 
social causality and cultural difference, one is led to question the enclos- 
ures and exclusions of Jameson's 'third space'. The space of 'thirdness' 
in postmodern politics opens up an area of 'interfection' (to use Jame- 
son's term) where the newness of cultural practices and historical narra- 
tives are registered in 'generic discordance', 'unexpected juxtaposition', 
'the semiautomization of reality', 'postmodern schizo-fragmentation as 
opposed to modern or modernist anxieties or hysterias' (pp. 371-2). 
Figured in the disjointed signifier of the present, this supplementary 
third space introduces a structure of ambivalence into the very construc- 
tion of Jameson's internationalism. There is, on the one hand, a recog- 
nition of the interstitial, disjunctive spaces and signs crucial for the 
emergence of the new historical subjects of the transnational phase of 
late capitalism. However, having located the image of the historical 
present in the signifier of a 'disintegrative' narrative, Jameson disavows 
the temporality of displacement which is, quite literally, its medium 
of communication. For Jameson, the possibility of becoming historical 
demands a containment of this disjunctive social time. 

Let me describe what I consider to be the ambivalence that structures 
both the invention and the interdiction of Jameson's thought, by return- 
ing to the primal fantasy of late capitalism that he has located in 
downtown Los Angeles. The mise-en-scene of the subject's relation to an 
unrepresentable social totality - the germ of an entire generation of 
scholarly essays - is to be found in the carnivalesque description of that 
postmodern panopticon, the Bonaventure Hotel. In a trope that echoes 
the disorientation of language and location that accompanies Marlow's 
journey up the Congo, Jameson shoots the rapids in the elevator-gondola 
and lands in the milling confusion of the lobby. Here, in the hotel's 
hyperspace, you lose your bearings entirely. This is the dramatic 



moment when we are faced with the incapacity of our minds to 'map 
the great global multinational network and decentred communicational 
network' (p. 44). In this encounter with the global dialectic of the unrep- 
resentable, there is an underlying, prosthetic injunction 'something like 
an imperative to grow new organs, to expand our sensorium and our 
body to some new, yet unimaginable, perhaps impossible, dimensions' 
(p. 39). What might this cyborg be? 

In his concluding meditation on the subject, 'Secondary elaborations', 
Jameson elaborates this enhanced perceptual capacity as a 

kind of incommensurability-vision that does not pull the eyes back 
into focus but provisionally entertains the tension of their multiple 

coordinates It is their spatial separation that is strongly felt as 

such. Different moments in historical or existential time are here 
simply filed in different places; the attempt to combine them even 
locally does not slide up and down a temporal scale . . . but jumps 
back and forth across a game board that we conceptualize in terms 
of distance. (My emphasis) (pp. 372-3) 

Although Jameson commences by elaborating the 'sensorium' of the 
decentred, multinational network as existing somewhere beyond our 
perceptual, mappable experience, he can only envisage the represen- 
tation of global 'difference' by making a renewed appeal to the mimetic 
visual faculty - this time in the name of an 'incommensurability-vision'. 
What is manifestly new about this version of international space and 
its social (in)visibility, is its temporal measure - 'different moments in 
historical time . . . jumps back and forth'. The non-synchronous tempor- 
ality of global and national cultures opens up a cultural space - a third 
space - where the negotiation of incommensurable differences creates a 
tension peculiar to borderline existences. In 'The new world (b)order', 
Guillermo Gomez-Pena, the performance artist who lives between 
Mexico City and New York, plays with our incommensurability-vision 
and extends our senses towards the new transnational world and its 
hybrid names: 

This new society is characterized by mass migrations and bizarre 
interracial relations. As a result new hybrid and transitional identi- 
ties are emerging Such is the case of the crazy CMca-riricuas, 

who are the products of the Puertorican-mullato and Chicano- 

mestizo parents When a Chica-riricua marries a Hassidic Jew 

their child is called Hassidic vato loco 

The bankrupt notion of the melting pot has been replaced by a 
model that is more germane to the times, that of the menudo 
chowder. According to this model, most of the ingredients do melt, 



but some stubborn chunks are condemned merely to float. Vergi- 
gratia! 11 

Such fantastic renamings of the subjects of cultural difference do not 
derive their discursive authority from anterior causes - be it human 
nature or historical necessity - which, in a secondary move, articulate 
essential and expressive identities between cultural differences in the 
contemporary world. The problem is not of an ontological cast, where 
differences are effects of some more totalizing, transcendent identity to 
be found in the past or the future. Hybrid hyphenations emphasize the 
incommensurable elements - the stubborn chunks - as the basis of 
cultural identifications. What is at issue is the performative nature 
of differential identities: the regulation and negotiation of those spaces 
that are continually, contingently, 'opening out', remaking the boundaries, 
exposing the limits of any claim to a singular or autonomous sign of 
difference - be it class, gender or race. Such assignations of social 
differences - where difference is neither One nor the Other but something 
else besides, in-between - find their agency in a form of the 'future' where 
the past is not originary, where the present is not simply transitory. It 
is, if I may stretch a point, an interstitial future, that emerges in-between 
the claims of the past and the needs of the present. 12 

The present of the world, that appears through the breakdown of 
temporality, signifies a historical intermediacy, familiar to the psychoana- 
lytic concept of Nachtraglichkeit (deferred action): 'a transferential func- 
tion, whereby the past dissolves in the present, so that the future 
becomes (once again) an open question, instead of being specified by the 
fixity of the past.' 13 The iterative 'time' of the future as a becoming 'once 
again open', makes available to marginalized or minority identities a 
mode of performative agency that Judith Butler has elaborated for the 
representation of lesbian sexuality: 'a specificity ... to be established, 
not outside or beyond that reinscription or reiteration, but in the very 
modality and effects of that reinscription.' 14 

Jameson dispels the potential of such a 'third' politics of the future- 
as-open-question, or the 'new world (b)order', by turning social differ- 
ences into cultural 'distance', and converting interstitial, conflictual tem- 
poralities, that may be neither developmental nor linear (not 'up and 
down a temporal scale'), into the topoi of spatial separation. Through 
the metaphor of spatial distance, Jameson steadfastly maintains the 
'frame', if not the face, of the subject-centred perceptual apparatus 15 
which, in a counter move, he attempts to displace in the 'virtual reality' 
of cognitive mapping, or the unrepresentability of the new international 
space. And the pivot of this regulatory, spatial dialectic - the eye of the 
storm - is none other than the 'class-subject' itself. If Jameson makes 
the teleological dimension of the class category retreat in the face of the 



multiple axes of transnational globality, then the linear, developmental 
dimension returns in the shape of a spatial typology. The dialectic 
of the unrepresentable (that frames the incommensurable realities of 
international space) suddenly becomes all too easily visible, too predict- 
ably knowable: 

The three types of spaces I have in mind are all the result of 
discontinuous expansion of quantum leaps in the enlargement 
of capital, in the latter 's penetration of hitherto uncommodified 
areas. A certain unifying and totalizing force is presupposed here 
- not the Hegelian Absolute Spirit, nor the party, nor Stalin, but 
simply capital itself, (p. 410) 

The disjoined signifiers of the present are fixed in the punctual period- 
izaobhs of mar1^r^^^^^J^..m.l<UUnatic4iar capital; the interstitial, 
erratic movements that signify culture's transnational temporalities are 
knit back into the teleological spaces of global capital And through the 
framing of the present within the three phases' of capital, the innovative 
energy of the 'third'„ space is somehow lost 

Try as he does to suggest, in sympathy with Sartre, that 'totalizing' 
is not access to totality but 'a playing with the boundary, like a loose 
tooth' (p. 363), there is little doubt that for Jameson the boundary of 
knowledge, and the prerequisite of critical method, is ordered in a 
binary division of space: there has to be an 'inside' and an 'outside' for 
there to be a socially determinative relation. Despite Jameson's fasci- 
nation with the inside-out spaces of the BonaventUre Hotel or the Frank 
Geahry House, for him the structure of social causality requires the 
'base and superstructure' division which recurs repeatedly in his later 
work, shorn of its dogmatism, but nonetheless, as he reminds us, his 
methodological starting point: 'a heuristic recommendation simul- 
taneously to grasp culture (and theory) in and for itself, but also in 
relaHoniolte outside, its content and its context, its space orintervention 
and effectivity' (p. 409). 

If the incommensurable and asynchronic landscape of the postmodern 
undermines the possibility of such simultaneity, then Jameson further 
evolves the concept of base and superstructure by rearticulating the 
binary division through an analogon: 

[I]n the present world system, a media term is always present to 
function as an analogon or material interpretant for this or that 
more directly representational social model. Something thereby 
emerges which looks like a new postmodern version of the base- 
superstructure formula in which a representation of social relations 
as such now demands the mediation of this or that interposed 



communicational structure from which it must be read off 
indirectly, (p. 416) 

Once more j he histo rical difference of the present is articulated in the 
e mergence of a third space of representation which is, just as quickly, 
reabsorbed" info" the base-superstructure division. The analogon, 
required by the new world system as a way of expressing its interstitial 
cultural temporality - an indirect and interposed communicational 
structure - is allowed to embellish, but not to interrupt, the base- 
superstructure formula What forms of social difference are privileged 
in the Aufhebung, or the transcendence, of the 'unrepresentable'? Who 
are the new historical subjects that remain unrepresented in the vaster 
invisibility of this transnational totality? 

As the West gazes into the broken mirror of its new global uncon- 
scious - 'the extraordinary demographic displacements of mass migrant 
workers and of global tourists ... to a degree unparalleled in world 
history' (p. 363) - Jameson attempts, in a suggestive move, to turn the 
schizophrenic social imaginary of the postmodern subject into a crisis 
in the collective ontology of the group faced with the sheer 'number' 
of demographic pluralism. The perceptual (and cognitive) anxiety 16 that 
accompanies the loss of 'infrastructural' mapping becomes exacerbated 
in the postmodern city, where both Raymond Williams's 'knowable 
community' and Benedict Anderson's 'imagined community' have been 
altered by mass migration and settlement. Migrant communities are 
representative of a much wider trend towards the minoritization of 
national societies. For Jameson this process is part of a historical irony: 
'the transitional nature of the new global economy has not yet allowed 
its classes to form in any stable way, let alone to acquire a genuine 
class-consciousness' (p. 348). 

The social objectivity of the group-based politics of new social move- 
ments - or, indeed, the political groupings of metropolitan minorities - 
is, in Jameson's -argument, to be found in the simulacral superficies of 
media mstitutions or in those practices of the culture industry that 
produce 'libidinal investments of a more narrative kind.' The construc- 
tion of political solidarities between minorities or special interest groups 
would then be considered 'pseudo-dialectical' unless their alignment is 
mediated through the prior and primal identification with class identity 
(as the mode of equivalence between oppressions or exploitations). 
Racial hierarchies, sexual discriminations, or, for instance , the linkage 
of both forms of social differentiation in the iniquitous practices oT 
refugee and nationality law - these may be legitimate causes for political 
?^9lkJfeuJJthe making of the political group for it-self as an effective 
consciousness coidd [ only occur through the mediation of the category 



Such a reading of Jameson's class analysis, it may be argued, does 
little justice to his innovative image of the social actor as a 'third term 
. . . the non-centred subject that is part of an organic group or collective' 
(p. 345). We have, by now, leamt that this appeal to a 'thirdness' in 
the structure of dialectical thought is both an acknowledgement of the 
disjunctive cultural 'signs' of these (postmodern) times, and a symptom 
of Jameson's inability to move beyond the binary dialectic of inside 
and outside, base and superstructure. His innovative conception of the 
political subject, as a decentred spatial agency, is constrained by his 
coritiction that the moment of History's true recognition - the guarantee 
of its material objectivity - lies in the ability of the concept of class to 
bacome the minor of social production and cultural representation. He 

Class categories are more material, more impure and scandalously 
mixed, in the way in which their determinants or definitional 
factors involve the production of objects and the relations deter- 
mined by that, along with the forces of the respective machinery: 
we can thus see down through class categories to the rocky bottom 
of the stream, (p. 346) 

Would it be fanciful for me to suggest that in this image of class as 
the glass of history - an optical ontology that allows a clear view to the 
'bottom of the stream' - there is also a form of narcissism? Class sub- 
sumes the interpellative, affective power of 'race, gender, ethnic culture 
and the like . . . [which] can always be shown to involve phantasms of 
culture as such, in the anthropological sense, . . . authorized and legitim- 
ized by notions of religion' (p. 345). In Jameson's argument, these forms 
of social difference are fundamentally reactive and group oriented, lack- 
ing the material objectivity of the class relation. It is only when political 
movements of race or gender are mediated by the primary analytic 
category of class, that these communal identities are transformed into 
agencies^capable of interpellating [themselves] and dictating the terms 
of [their] own specular imagejs]' (p. 346). 

If the specularity of class consciousness provides race and gender 
with its interpellative structure, then no form of collective social identity 
can be designated without its prior naming as a form of class identity. 
Class identity is autoreferential, surmounting other instances of social 
difference. Its sovereignty is also, in a theoretical sense, an act of surveil- 
lance. Class categories that provide a clear view to the stream's rocky 
bottom are then caught in an autotelic disavowal of their own discursive 
and epistemic limits. Such a narcissism can articulate 'other' subjects of 
difference and forms of cultural alterity as either mimetically secondary 
- a paler shade of the authenticity and originality of class relations, now 
somehow out of place - or temporally anterior or untimely - archaic, 



anthropomorphic, compensatory realities rather than contemporary 
social communities. 

If I have described the class category as narcissistic, tout court, then I 
have not done justice to the complexity of Jameson's ambivalence. For 
it is, perhaps, a wounded narcissus that gazes down to the bottom of 
the stream. 'In a situation in which, for a time, genuine (or totalising) 
politics is no longer possible', Jameson concedes, it becomes one's 
responsibility 'to attend to just such symptoms as the waning of the 
global dimension, to the ideological resistance to the concept of totality' 
(pT330)7 Jameson's urgent and admirable vigilance is not in doubt. It is 
the value invested in the visible difference of class that does not allow 
him to constitute the present moment as the insignia of other interstitial 
inscriptions of cultural difference. As the autotelic specularity of the 
class category witnesses the historic loss of its own ontological priority, 
there emerges the possibility of a politics of social difference that makes 
no autotelic claims - 'capable of interpellating itself; - but is genuinely 
articulatory in its understanding that to be discursively represented and 
socially representative - to assume an effective political identity or image - 
the limits and conditions of specularity have to be exceeded and erased 
by the inscription of otherness. To revise the problem of global space 
from the postcolonial perspective is to move the location of cultural 
dffi^tfjSjOB^3E^-^«piace-ordemographic plurality to the border- 
line negotiations of cultural translation. .,. 


What does the narrative construction of minority discourses entail for 
the everday existence of the Western metropdlis? Let us stay with televis- 
ual subjects of channel-switching and psychic splitting - that Jameson 
deems late capitalist - and enter the postmodern city as migrants and 
minorities. Our siren song comes from the Jewish ad-woman Mimi 
Mamoulian, talking over the phone from New York to Saladin Chamcha, 
erstwhile London based voice-over artiste, now a Satanic goatman, 
sequestered in an Indian-Pakistani ghetto in London's Brickhall Street. 
The scenario comes, of course, from 77k Satanic Verses, 17 and the voice 
is Mimi's: 

I am conversant with postmodernist critiques of the West, e.g. that 
we have here a society capable only of pastiche: a flattened world. 
When I become the voice of a bubble bath, I am entering flatland 
knowingly, understanding what I am doing and why. . . . Don't 
teach me about exploitation. . . . Try being jewish, female and ugly 
sometime. You'll beg to be black. Excuse my french: brown. 

At the Shandaar Cafe today all the talk is about Chamcha the Anglo- 



phile, famed for his voice-over on the Slimbix ad: 'How's a calorie to earn 
a salary? Thanks to Slimbix, I'm out of work.' Chamcha, the great projector 
of voices, the prestidigitator of personae, has turned into a Goat and 
has crawled back to the ghetto, to his despised migrant compatriots. In 
his mythic being he has become the 'borderline' figure of a massive 
historical displacement - postcolonial migration - that is not only a 
'transitional' reality, but also a 'translational' phenomenon. The question 
is, in Jameson's terms, whether 'narrative invention ... by way of its 
very implausibility becomes the figure of a larger possible [cultural] 
praxis' (p. 369). 

For Chamcha stands, quite literally, in-between two border conditions. 
On the one hand lies his landlady Hind who espouses the cause of 
gastronomic pluralism, devouring the spiced dishes of Kashmir and the 
yogurt sauces of Lucknow, turning herself into the wide land mass of 
the subcontinent itself 'because food passes across any boundary you 
care to mention'. 18 On Chamcha's other side sits his landlord Sufyan, 
the secular 'colonial' metropolitan who understands the fate of the 
migrant in the classical contrast between Lucretius and Ovid. Translated, 
by Sufyan, for the existential guidance of postcolonial migrants, the 
problem consists in whether the crossing of cultural frontiers permits 
freedom from the essence of the self (Lucretius), or whether, like wax, 
migration only changes the surface of the soul, preserving identity under 
its protean forms (Ovid). 

This liminality of migrant experience is no less a transitional phenom- 
enon than a translational one; there is no resolution to it because the 
two conditions are ambivalently enjoined in the 'survival' of migrant 
life. Living in the interstices of Lucretius and Ovid, caught in-between 
a 'nativist', even nationalist, atavism and a postcolonial metropolitan 
assimilation, the subject of cultural difference becomes a problem that 
Walter Benjamin has described as .th e irresolution, or liminality, of 'trans- 
lation', the element of resistance in the process of transformation, 'that 
elemenf in a Tran slati on whirh Hope nnt lonH ifop l f to translation '. 19 This 
space of the translation of cultural difference at the interstices is infused 
jvi£h that Benjarninian temporality of the pres^ntivWch-n^es^r^hic 
^jnoment of transition, not merely the continuum gi : Wstoiy^tJs_a 
strange stillness that defines the present in which the v^ry writing, of 
historical transformation [becomes JirKariruTy_yisible J . The migrant culture 
of the 'in-between', the minority position, dramatizes the activity of 
culture's untranslatability; and in so doing, it moves the question 
of culture's appropriation beyond the assimilationist's dream, or the 
racist's nightmare, of a 'full transmissal of subject-matter '; M and towards 
an encounter with the ambivalent process of splitting and hybridity that 
marks the identification with culture's difference. The God of migrants, 



in 77k Satanic Verses, speaks unequivocally on this point, while of course, 
fully equivocal between purity and danger: 

Whether We be multiform, plural, representing the union-by- 
hybridisation of such opposites as Oopar and Neechay, or whether 
We be pure, stark, extreme, will not be resolved here. 21 

The indeterminacy of diasporic identity, '[that] will not be resolved here' 
is the secular, social cause for what has been widely represented as the 
'blasphemy' of the book. Hybridity is heresy. The fundamentalist charge 
has not fpCTfifirt on fop jrristafa^retation of tbo Koran, as much as on 
the offence of the 'rmsnaming' of Islam: Mohamed referred to as Mah- 
ound; the prostitutes named after the wives of the Prophet. It is the 
f Sfmal complq jnf; fff Aft ninHamgntalists that the_ transposition "of these 
sacred names, into profane spaces - brothels or magical realist novels - 
is not simply sacrilegious, but destructive of the very cement of com- 
munity. To violate the system of naming is to make contingent and 
indeterminate what Alisdair Macintrye, in his essay on Tradition 
and translation', has described as 'naming for. the institutions of naming 
as the. expressica^^ of the shared standpoint of the 

community, its traditions of belief and enquiry'. 22 The conflict of cultures 
and community: around The Satanic Verses has been mainly represented 
in spatial terms and binary geopolitical polarities - Islamic fundamental- 
ists vs. Western literary modernists, the quarrel of the ancient (ascriptive) 
migrants and modem (ironic) metropolitans. This obscures the anxiety 
of the irresolvable, borderline culture of hybridity that articulates its 
problems of identification and its diasporic aesthetic in an uncanny, 
disjunctive temporality that is, at once, the time of cultural displacement, 
and the space of the 'untranslatable'. 

To blaspheme is not simply to sully the ineffability of the sacred 
name. '. . . [B]lasphemy is by no means confined to the Islamic chapters', 
Sara Suleri writes in her fine reading of The Satanic Verses. '[A] postcol- 
onial desire for deracination, emblematized by the protagonist Saladin 
Chamcha, is equally represented as cultural heresy. Acts of historical or 
cultural severance become those blasphemous moments that proliferate 
in the narrative . . . <23 Blasphemy goes beyond the severance of tradition 
and replaces its claim to a purity of origins with a poetics of re- 
location and reinscription. Rushdie repeatedly uses the word 'blas- 
phemy' in the migrant sections of the book to indicate a theatrical form 
of the staging of cross-genre, cross-cultural identities. Blasphemy is not 
merely a misrepresentation of the sacred by the secular; it is a moment 
when the subject-matter or the content of a cultural tradition is being 
overwhelmed, or alienated, in the act of translation. Into the asserted 
authenticity or continuity of tradition, 'secular' blasphemy releases a 



temporality that reveals the contingencies, even the incommensurabilit- 
ies, involved in the process of social transformation. 

My theoretical description of blasphemy as a transgressive act of 
cultural translation, is borne out by Yunus Samad's reading of blas- 
phemy in the context of the real event of the fatwah. 24 It is die mediym 
Rushdie uses to reinterpret the Koran that constitutes the crime. In the 
Muslim world, Samad argues, poetry is the traditional medium of cen- 
sure. By casting his revisionary narrative in the form of the novel - 
largely unknown to traditional Islamic literature - Rushdie violates the 
poetic licence granted to critics of the Islamic establishment. In Samad's 
words, 'Salman Rushdie's real crime, in the eyes of the clerics, was that 
he touched on early Islamic history in a critical, imaginative and irrever- 
ent fashion but with deep historical insight.' It could be argued, I think, 
that far from simply misinterpreting the Koran, Rushdie's sin lies in 
opening up a space of discursive contestation that places the authority 
of the Koran within a perspective of historical and cultural relativism. 
It is not that the 'content' of the Koran is directly disputed; rather, 
by revealing other enunciatory positions and possibilities within the 
framework of Koranic reading, Rushdie performs the subversion of its 
authenticity through the act of cultural translation - he relocates the 
Koran's 'intentionality' by repeating and reinscribing it in the locale of 
the novel of postwar cultural migrations and diasporas. 

The transposition of the life of Mohamed into the melodramatic the- 
atricality of a popular Bombay movie, 77k Message, results in a hybrid- 
ized form - the 'theological' 25 - targeted to Western immigrant 
audiences. Blasphemy, here, is the slippage in-between the intended 
moral fable and its displacement into the dark, symptomatic figurations 
of the 'dreamwork' of cinematic fantasy. In the racist psychodrama 
staged around Chamcha, the Satanic goatman, 'blasphemy' stands for 
the phobic projections that fuel great social fears, cross frontiers, evade 
the normal controls, and. roam loose about the city turning difference 
into demonism. The social fantasm of racism, driven by rumour, 
becomes politically credible and strategically negotiable: 'priests became 
involved, adding another unstable element - the linkage between the 
term black and the sin blasphemy - to the mix.' 26 As the unstable element 
- the interstice - enables the linkage black/blasphemy, so it reveals, once 
more, that the 'present' of translation may not be a smooth transition, a 
consensual continuity, but the configuration of the disjunctive rewriting 
of the transcultural, migrant experience. 

If hybridity is heresy, then to blaspheme is to dream. To dream not 
of the past or present, nor the continuous present; it is not the nostalgic 
dream of tradition, nor the Utopian dream of modem progress; it is 
the dream of translation as 'survival' as Derrida translates the 'time' of 
Benjamin's concept of the after-life of translation, as sur-vivre, the act 



of living on borderlines. Rushdie translates this into the migrant's 
dream of survival: an initiatory interstices; an empowering condition of 
hybridity; an emergence that turns 'return' into reinscription or re- 
description; an iteration that is not belated, but ironic and insurgent. 
For the migrant's survival depends, as Rushdie put it,, on. discovering 
"how newness enters the world'. The focus is on making the linkages 
throughthe~ instable elements of literature and life - the dangerous 
tryst with the 'untranslatable' - rather than arriving at ready-made 

The 'newness' of migrant or minority discourse has to be discovered 
in medias res: a newness that is not part of the 'progressivist' division 
between past and present, or the archaic and the modem; nor is it a 
'newness' that can be contained in the mimesis of 'original and copy'. 
In both these cases, the image of the new is iconic rather than enunci- 
atory; in both instances, temporal difference is represented as epistemo- 
logical or mimetic distance from an original source. The newness of 
cultural translation is akin to what Walter Benjamin describes as the 
'foreignness of languages' - that problem of representation native to 
representation itself. If Paul de Man focused on the 'metonymy' of 
translation, I want to foreground the 'foreignness' of cultural translation. 

With the concept of 'foreignness' Benjamin comes closest to describing 
the j^anasalSs^-taJtmaMm. as the staging, of cultural difference. 
The argument begins with the suggestion that though Brot and pain 
intend the same object, bread, their discursive and cultural modes of 
signification are in conflict with each other, striving to exclude each 
ofherTThe complementarity of language as communication must be 
understood as emerging from the constant state of contestation and flux 
caused by tie differential systems of social and cultural signification. 
Trus process of complementarity as the agonistic supplement is the 
seed of the 'untranslatable' - the foreign element in the midst of the 
performance- of cultural translation. And it is this seed that turns into 
the famous, overworked analogy in the Benjamin essay: unlike the 
original where fruit and skin form a certain unity, in the act of trans- 
lation the content or subject matter is made disjunct, overwhelmed and 
alienated by the form of signification, like a royal robe with ample folds. 

Unlike Derrida and de Man, I am less interested in the metonymic 
fragmentation of the 'original'. I am more engaged with the 'foreign' 
element that reveals the interstitial; insists in the textile superfluity of 
folds and wrinkles; and becomes the 'unstable element of linkage', the 
indeterminate temporality of the in-between, that has to be engaged in 
creating the conditions through which 'newness comes into the world'. 
The foreign element 'destroys the original's structures of reference and 
sense communication as well' 27 not simply by negating it but by nego- 
tiating the disjunction in which successive cultural temporalities are 



'preserved in the work of history and at the same time cancelled The 

nourishing fruit of the historically understood contains time as a pre- 
cious but tasteless seed.' 28 And through this dialectic of cultural 
negation-as-negotiation, this splitting of skin and fruit through the 
agency of foreignness, the purpose is, as Rudolf Pannwitz says, not 'to 
turn Hindi, Greek, English into German [but] instead to turn German 
into Hindi, Greek, English'. 29 

Translation is the performative nature of cultural communication. It 
is language in actu (enunciation, positionality) rather than language in 
situ (Snonci, or propositionality). 30 And the sign of translation continually 
tells, or 'tolls' the different times and spaces between cultural authority 
and its performative practices. 31 The 'time' of translation consists in that 
movement of meaning, the principle and practice of a communication 
that, in the words of de Man 'puts the original in motion to decanonise 
it, giving it the movement of fragmentation, a wandering of errance, a 
kind of permanent exile'. 32 

Chamcha is the discriminatory sign of a performative, projective Brit- 
ish culture of race and racism - 'illegal immigrant, outlaw king, foul 
criminal or race hero'. 33 From somewhere between Ovid and Lucretius, 
or between gastronomic and demographic pluralisms, he confounds 
nativist and supremacist ascriptions of national(ist) identities. This 
migrant movement of social identifications leads to the most devastating 
parody of Maggie Torture's Britain. 

The revenge of the migrant hybrid comes in the Club Hot Wax 
sequence, 34 named, no doubt, after Sufyan's translation of Ovid's waxy 
metaphor for the immutability of the migrant soul. If Gibreel Farishta, 
later in the book, transforms London into a tropical country with 
'increased moral definition, institution of a national siesta, development 
of vivid and expansive patterns of behaviour', 35 then it is the deejay, 
prancing Pinkwalla, who stages the revenge of black history in the 
expressivist cultural practices of toasting, rapping and scratching. In a 
scene that blends Madame Tussaud's with Led Zepplin, the sepulchral 
wax figures of an excised black history emerge to dance amidst the 
migrants of the present in a postcolonial counter-masque of a retrieved 
and reinscribed history. Waxy Maggie Torture is condemned to a melt- 
down, accompanied by the Baldwinian chants of 'the fire this time'. 
And suddenly through this ritual of translation, Saladin Chamcha, the 
Satanic goatman, is historicized again in the movement of a migrant 
history, a metropolitan world 'becoming minority'. 

Cultural translation desacralizes the transparent assumptions of cul- 
tural supremacy, and in that very act, demands a contextual specificity, 
a historical differentiation within minority positions. If the public image 
of the Rushdie affair has become mired in the righteous indignation of 
Magus and Mullah, that is because its re-citation within a feminist, anti- 



fundamentalist public discourse has received little attention. The most 
productive debates, and political initiatives, in the post-fatwah period, 
have come from women's groups like Women Against Fundamentalism 
and Southall Black Sisters 36 in Britain. They have been concerned less 
with the politics of textuality and international terrorism, and more with 
demonstrating that the secular, global issue lies uncannily at home, in 
Britain - in the policies of local government and the race-relations 
industry; in the 'racialization of religion' in multicultural Britain; in the 
imposition of homogeneity on 'minority' populations in the name of 
cultural diversity or pluralism. 

Feminists have not fetishized the infamous naming of the prostitutes 
after Mohamed's wives: rather they have drawn attention to the politic- 
ized violence in the brothel and the bedroom, raising demands for the 
establishment of refuges for minority women coerced into marriages. 
Their response to the Rushdie affair reveals what they describe as 'the 
contradictory influences of feminist and multi-culturalist policies adopted 
by the local state (mainly in Labour-led councils)'. 37 From such ambiva- 
lent, antagonistic identifications of class, gender, generation and tra- 
dition, the British feminist movement of he 1990s has redefined its 
agenda. The Irish question, post-fatwah, has also been reposed as a 
postcolonial problem of the 'racialization of religion'. The critique of 
patriarchal fundamentalism and its regulation of gender and sexual 
desire has become a major issue for minority cultures. Minority artists 
have questioned the heterosexism that regulates traditional, joint-family 
based communities, making gay and lesbian relations restrictive and 
repressive. Such is the tropic movement of cultural translation, as Rush- 
die spectacularly renames London, in its Indo-Pakistani iteration, as 
'Ellowen Deeowen'. 


Can libidinal investments of a more narrative kind' 38 produce a rep- 
resentative discourse of minorities? In other words - pace Jameson - 
how would collective agency be signified in groups hat do not have 
the 'orgariicist' history and conceptuality of the discourse of 'class'? 
'Becoming minor', Abdul Janmohamed and David Lloyd remind us, 'is 
not a question of essence . . . but a question of subject position.' Such a 
position articulates 'alternative practices and values that are embedded 
in the often-damaged, -fragmentary, -hampered, or -occluded work of 
minorities'; 39 and having been 'coerced into a negative, generic subject 
position, the oppressed individual transforms it into a positive collective 
one'. 40 These fragmented, partially occluded values of minority discourse 
are both continuous and discontinuous with Marxism, according to 
Cornel West. He proposes a genealogical materialism as a way of 



contesting a 'psycho-sexual racial logic'. 41 It represents a logic of living 
that cuts across the everyday life of different ideological forms - race, 
religion, patriarchy, homophobia; it reveals, and contests, the mechan- 
isms by which self-images and self-identities are formed in the realm 
of cultural styles, aesthetic ideals, psychosexual sensibilities. Both these 
accounts of the racial, gendered minority positions stage the symbolic 
form of self-identification represented through fragmentation and 
occlusion of the sovereignty of the self. Affiliative solidarity is formed 
through the ambivalent articulations of the realm of the aesthetic, the 
fantasmatic, the economic and the body political: a temporality of social 
construction and contradiction that is iterative and interstitial; an insur- 
gent 'intersubjectivity' that is interdisciplinary; an everyday that interro- 
gates the synchronous contemporaneity of modernity. 

It is too easy to see the discourses of the minority as symptoms of 
the postmodern condition. Jameson's claim, that in the absence of a 
genuine class consciousness, 'the very lively social struggles of the 
current period are largely dispersed and anarchic' (p. 349), does not 
sufficiently register the antagonistic displacement that minority dis- 
courses initiate, across, or at cross-purposes with, the dialectics of class 
identities. To seek a 'healthy' sociological holism and philosophical 
realism (p. 323), as Jameson derives from Georg Lukacs, would hardly 
be appropriate to those passionate and partial conditions of communal 
emergence which are an integral part of the temporal and historic con- 
ditions of postcolonial critique. 

'It is not so much the state-civil society opposition but rather the 
capital-community opposition that seems to be the great unsurpassed 
contradiction in Western social philosophy.' 42 From this perspective, 
Partha Chatterjee, the Indian subaltern scholar, returns to Hegel - crucial 
to both Lukacs and Jameson - to claim that the idea of community 
articulates a cultural temporality of contingency and indeterminacy at 
the heart of the discourse of civil society. This 'minority' reading is built 
on the occluded, partial presence of the idea of community that haunts 
or doubles the concept of civil society, leading 'a subterranean, poten- 
tially subversive life within it because it refuses to go away'. 43 As a 
category, community enables a division between the private and the 
public, the civil and the familial; but as a performative discourse it 
enacts the impossibility of drawing an objective line between the two. 
The agency of the community-concept 'seeps through the interstices of 
the objectively constructed, contractually regulated structure of civil 
society', 44 class-relations and national identities. Community disturbs 
the grand globalizing narrative of capital, displaces the emphasis on 
production in 'class' collectivity, and disrupts the homogeneity of the 
imagined community of the nation. The narrative of community sub- 
stantializes cultural difference, and constitutes a 'split-and-double' form 



of group identification which Chatterjee illustrates through a specifically 
'anti-colonialist' contradiction of the public sphere. The colonized refuse 
to accept membership in the civil society of subjects; consequently they 
create a cultural domain 'marked by the distinctions of the material and 
the spiritual, the outer and the inner'. 45 

I am less concerned with the conceptual aporia of the community- 
capital contradiction, than with the genealogy of the idea of com- 
munity as itself a 'minority' discourse; as the making, or becoming 
'minor', of the idea of Society, in the practice of the politics of culture. 
Community is the an t agonist supplement of modernity: in the metro- 
po litan spaceTF is the territory of the minority, threatening the clai ms 
of "civility; in t he transnational world it hpmmps th<» hprHpr-prnhlpm' of 
t he diasporic, the migrant, the refugee. B inary divisions of social space 
neglect the profound temporal disjunction - the translational time and 
space - through which minority communities negotiate their collective 
identifications. For what is at issue in the discourse of minorities is 
the creation of agency through incommensurable (not simply multiple) 
positions. Is there a poetics of the 'interstitial' community? How does 
it name itself, author its agency? 

Nowhere in contemporary postcolonial poetry have I found the con- 
cept of the right to signify more profoundly evoked than in Derek 
Walcott's poem on t he colonization of the Caribbean as the possession 
of a space through the power of naming. 46 Ordinary language develops 
an auratic authority, an imperial persona; but in a specifically postcol- 
onial performance of reinscription, the focus shifts from the nominalism 
of imperialism to the emergence of another sign of agency and identity. 
It signifies the destiny of culture as a site, not simply of subversion 
and transgression, but one that prefigures a kind of solidarity between 
ethnicities that meet in the tryst of colonial history. 

My race began as the sea began, 
with no nouns, and with no horizon, 
with pebbles under my tongue, 
with a different fix on the stars. 

Have we melted into the mirror 
leaving our souls behind? 
The goldsmith from Benares, 
the stonecutter from Canton, 
the bronzesmith from Benin. 

A sea-eagle screams from the rock, 
and my race began like the osprey 
with that cry, 



that terrible vowel, 
that I! 

[. . .] this stick 

to trace our names on the sand 

which the sea erased again, to our indifference. 


And when they named these bays 

was it nostalgia or irony? 

Where were the courts of Castille? 
Versailles' colonnades 
supplanted by cabbage palms 
with Corinthian crests, 
belittling diminutives, 
then, little Versailles, 
meant plans for a pigsty, 
names for the sour apples 
and green grapes 
of their exile. 

[. . .] Being men they could not live 
except they first presumed 
the right of everything to be a noun. 
The African acquiesced, 
repeated and changed them. 

Listen, my children, say: 
moubain: the hogplum, 
cerise: the wild cherry, 
baie-la: the bay, 
with the fresh green voices 
they were once themselves 
in the way the wind bends 
our natural inflections. 

These palms are greater than Versailles, 

for no man made them, 

their fallen columns greater than Castille, 

no man unmade them 

except the worm who has no helmet, 

but was always the emperor, 



There are two myths of history in this poem, each of them related to 
opposing versions of the place of identity in the process of cultural 
knowledge. There is the pedagogical process of imperialist naming: 

Being men, they could not live 

except they first presumed 

the right of everything to be a noun. 

Opposed to this is the African acquiescence which, in repeating the 
lesson of the masters, changes their inflections: 

moubain: the hogplum 
cerise: the wild cherry 
baie-la: the bay 
with the fresh green voices 
they were once themselves . . . 

Walcott's purpose is not to oppose the pedagogy of the imperialist 
noun to the inflectional appropriation of the native voice. He proposes 
to go beyond such binaries of power in order to reorganize our sense 
of the process of identification in the negotiations of cultural politics. 
He stages the slaves' right to signify, n ot simply by denying the imperial - 
ist the 'right of everything to be a noun' but by questioning the mascul i- 
n ist, authoritative subjectivity produced m the colonizing process : being 
men they could not live/ except they first presumed /the right of everything to 
be a noun. What is 'man' as an effect of, as subjected to, the sign - the 
noun - of a colonizing discourse? To this end, Walcott poses the problem 
of 'beginning' outside the question of 'origins', beyond that perspectival 
field of vision - the mind halved by the horizon - that constitutes human 
consciousness in the mirror of nature, as Richard Rorty has famously 
described it. 47 

Walcott's history begins elsewhere. He leads us to that moment of 
undecidability or unconditionality that constitutes the ambivalence 
of modernity as it executes its critical judgements, or seeks justification 
for its social facts. 48 Against the possessive, coercive 'right' of the West- 
em noun, Walcott places a different mode of postcolonial speech; a 
historical time envisaged in the discourse of the enslaved or the inden- 
tured The undecidability from which Walcott builds his narrative opens 
up his poem to the historical 'present' which Walter Benjamin describes 
as a 'present which is not a transition, but in which time stands still 
and has come to a stop' 49 For this notion defines the present in which history 
is being written. From this discursive space of struggle, the violence of 
the letter, the terror of the timeless, is negotiated the agency of the 
goldsmith from Benares, the Benin bronzesmith, the Cantonese stone- 
cutter. It is a collective agency that is, at once, pronomial and postnom- 



and my race began like the osprey 
with that cry, 
t hat terrible vowel, 

Where does the postcolonial subject lie? 

With that terrible vowel, that I, Walcott opens up the disjunctive prese nt 
of therpoem s writing ot its histor y. The 1 as vowel, as the arbitr ar- 
ine ss of the sigruner, i s the sign ot the interstitial difference throu gh 
w hich the ident i ty of m earung-Js_ma de. The T as pronomial, as the 
a vowal of the enslaved colonial subject is the repetition of the symbo lic 
agencyjof histor y, tracing its name on t he shifting sands, constituting a 
postcolonlaX migrant mmm nnity in-Hi fft»rpnr<v HinHn Chinese, African. 
With this disjunctive, double T Walcott writes a history of cultur al 
difference that envisages the prod uction of difference as the p olitical 
and sociardelinition of t h<» hicfnrjrai pres ent. Cultural differences must 
be understood as they constitute identities - contingently, indetermin- 
ately - in-between the repetition of the vowel I - that can always be 
reinscribed and relocated - and the restitution of the subject I. Read like 
this, in-between the I-as-symbol and the I-as-sign, the articulations of 
difference - race, history, gender - are never singular or binary. Claims 
to identity are nominative or normative, in a preliminary, passing 
moment; they are never nouns when they are culturally productive or 
historically progressive. Like the vowel itself, forms of social identity 
must be capable of turning up in-and-as an-other's difference and turn- 
ing the right to signify into an act of cultural translation. 

Pomme arac 

otaheite apple, 

pomme cythere, 

pomme granate, 



the pineapple's 

Aztec helmet, 


I have forgotten 
what pomme for 
Irish potato, 
the cherry, 
by the crisp 



au bord de la ouvriere. 

Come back to me, 

my language. 

Come back, 



solitaire, . . . so 

Richard Rorty suggests that 'solidarity has to be constructed outof 
little pieces, rather than found already waiting, in the form of an ur- 
language which all of us recognise when we hear it'. 51 In the spirit of 
such solidarity, Walcott's call to language serves a symbolic function. 
As the poem shuttles between the small acts of nature's naming and 
the larger performance of a communal tongue, its rhythm registers the 
'foreignness' of cultural memory. In forgetting the proper name, in each 
return of language - its 'coming back' - the disjunctive temporality of 
translation reveals the intimate differences that lie between genealogies 
and geographies. It is an interstitial time and space that I have variously 
described, through this chapter, as living 'in the midst of the incompre- 
hensible', or dwelling with Sufyan at the Shandaar Cafe, on the border- 
lines between Ovid and Lucretius, in-between Ooopar (above) and 
Neechay (below). History's intermediacy poses the future, once again, as 
an open question. It provides an agency of initiation that enables one 
to possess again and anew - as in the movement of Walcott's poem - 
the signs of survival, the terrain of other histories, the hybridity of 
cultures. The act of cultural translation works through 'the continua 
of transformation' to yield a sense of culture's belonging: 

generations going, 
generations gone, 
moi c'est gens Ste. Lucie 
C'est la moi sorti: 
is there that I bom. 52 

And from the little pieces of the poem, its going and coming, there rises 
the great history of the languages and landscapes of migration and 



'Race', time and the revision of modernity 

'Dirty nigger!' Or simply, Look, a Negro!' 

Frantz Fanon, The Fact of Blackness 


Whenever these words are said in anger or in hate, whether of the Jew 
in that estaminet in Antwerp, or of the Palestinian on the West Bank, or 
the Zairian student eking out a wretched existence selling fake fetishes 
on the Left Bank; whether they are said of the body of woman or the 
man of colour; whether they are quasi-officially spoken in South Africa 
or officially prohibited in London or New York, but inscribed neverthe- 
less in the severe staging of the statistics of educational performance 
and crime, visa violations, immigration irregularities; whenever 'Dirty 
nigger!' or, 'Look, a Negro!' is not said at all, but you can see it in a 
gaze, or hear it in the solecism of a still silence; whenever and wherever 
I am when I hear a racist, or catch his look, I am reminded of Fanon's 
evocatory essay 'The fact of blackness' and its unforgettable opening 
lines. 1 

I want to start by returning to that essay, to explore only one scene 
in its remarkable staging, Fanon's phenomenological performance of 
wV> ^LjL!Hg3T 1g f " hp " nt n " h J " "'fffflT bill a member of the marginalized , 

fr»P rjispla^H thp Hiagpnri/' Tr» ho amnngct thnco ty frose Very presenc e 

is b oth 'overlooked' - in t he double sense of social surveillance and 
psyc hic disavowal ^~and, at the same time, overdetermined - psychically 
projected, made stereotypical and symptomatic. Despite its very spec ific 
location - a Martirucan subjected to the racist gaze on a street comer in 
Lyons - I claim a generality for Fanon's argument because he talks not 
simply of the historicity of the black man, as much as he writes in 'The 
fact of blackness' about the temporality of modernity within which the 
figure of the 'human' comes to be authorized. It is Fanon's temporality 
of emergence - his sense of the belatedness of the black man - that does 
not simply make the question of ontology inappropriate for black 



identity, but somehow impossible for the very understanding of humanity 
in the world of modernity: 

You come too late, much too late, there will always be a world - a white 
world between you and us. (My emphasis) 

It is the opposition to the ontology of that white world - to its assumed 
hierarchical forms of rationality and universality - that Fanon turns in 
a performance that is iterative and interrogative - a repetition that is 
initiatory, instating a differential history that will not return to the power 
of the Same. Between you and us Fanon opens up an enunciative space 
that does not simply contradict the metaphysical ideas of progress or 
racism or rationality; he distantiates them by 'repeating' these ideas, 
makes them uncanny by displacing them in a number of culturally 
contradictory and discursively estranged locations. 

What Fanon shows up is the liminality of those ideas - their ethnocen- 
tric margin - by revealing the historicity of its most universal symbol - 
Man. From the perspective of a postcolonial 'belatedness', Fanon dis- 
turbs the punctum of man as the signifying, subjectifying category of 
Western culture, as a unifying reference of ethical value. Fanon performs 
the desire of the colonized to identify with the humanistic, enlighten- 
ment ideal of Man: 'all I wanted was to be a man among other men. I 
wanted to come lithe and young into a world that was ours and build 
it together.' Then, in a catachrestic reversal he shows how, despite the 
pedagogies of human history, the performative discourse of the liberal 
West, its quotidian conversation and comments, reveal the cultural 
supremacy and racial typology upon which the universalism of Man is 
founded: 'But of course, come in, sir, there is no colour prejudice among 

us Quite, the Negro is a man like ourselves It is not because he 

is black that he is less intelligent than we are.' 

Fanon uses the fact of blackness, of belatedness, to destroy the binary 
structure of power and identity: the imperative that 'the Black man 
must be Black; he must be Black in relation to the white man.' Elsewhere 
he has written: "The Black man is not. [caesura] Any more than the white 
man' (my interpolation). Fanon's discourse of the 'human' emerges from 
that temporal break or caesura effected in the continuist, progressivist 
myth of Man. He too speaks from the signifying time-lag of cultural 
difference that I have been attempting to develop as a structure for the 
representation of subaltern and postcolonial agency. Fanon writes from 
that temporal caesura, the time-lag of cultural difference, in a space 
between the symbolization of the social and the 'sign' of its represen- 
tation of subjects and agencies. Fanon destroys two time schemes in 
which the historicity of the human is thought He rejects the 'belated- 
ness' of the black man because it is only the opposite of the framing of 
the white man as universal, normative - the white sky all around me: the 



black man refuses to occupy the past of which the white man is 
the future. But Fanon also refuses the Hegelian-Marxist dialectical 
schema whereby the black man is part of a transcendental sublation: a 
minor term in a dialectic that will emerge into a more equitable univer- 
sality. Fanon, I believe, suggests another time, another space. 

It is a space of being that is wrought from the interruptive, interroga- 
tive, tragic experience of blackness, of discrimination, of despair. It is 
the apprehension of the social and psychic question of 'origin' - and its 
erasure - in a negative side that 'draws its worth from an almost 
substantive absoluteness . . . [which has to be] ignorant of the essences 
and determinations of its being ... an absolute density ... an abolition 
of the ego by desire'. What may seem primordial or timeless is, I believe, 
a moment of a kind of 'projective past' whose history and signification 
I shall attempt to explore here. It is a mode of 'negativity' that makes 
the enunciatory present of modernity disjunctive. It opens up a time-lag 
at the point at which we speak of humanity through its differentiations - 
gender, race, class - that mark an excessive marginality of modernity. It 
is the enigma of this form of temporality which emerges from what Du 
Bois also called the 'swift and low of human doing', 2 to face Progress 
with some unanswerable questions, and suggest some answers of its 

In destroying the 'ontology of man', Fanon suggests that 'there is not 
merely one Negro, there are Negroes'. This is emphatically not a post- 
modem celebration of pluralistic identities. As my argument will make 
clear, for me the project of modernity is itself rendered so contradictory 
and unresolved through the insertion of the 'time-lag' in which col- 
onial and postcolonial moments emerge as sign and history, that I am 
sceptical of those transitions to postmodernity in Western academic 
writings which theorize the experience of this 'new historicity' through 
the appropriation of a 'Third World' metaphor; 'the First World ... in 
a peculiar dialectical reversal, begins to touch some features of third- 
world experience. . . . The United States is . . . the biggest third-world 
country because of unemployment, nonproduction, etc.' 3 

Fanon's sense of social contingency and indeterminacy, made from 
the perspective of a postcolonial time-lag, is not a celebration of frag- 
mentation, bricolage, pastiche or the 'simulacrum'. It is a vision of social 
contradiction and cultural difference - as the disjunctive space of mod- 
ernity - that is best seen in a fragment of a poem he cites towards the 
end of 'The fact of blackness': 

As the contradiction among the features 
creates the harmony of the face 
we proclaim the oneness of the suffering 
and the revolt. 




The discourse of race that I am trying to develop displays the problem 
of the ambivalent temporality of modernity that is often overlooked in the 
more 'spatial' traditions of some aspects of postmodern theory. 4 Under 
the rubric 'the discourse of modernity', I do not intend to reduce a 
complex and diverse historical moment, with varied national genealog- 
ies and different institutional practices, into a singular shibboleth - be 
it the 'idea' of Reason, Historicism, Progress - for the critical con- 
venience of postmodern literary theory. My interest in the question of 
modernity resides in the influential discussion generated by the work 
of Habermas, Foucault, Lyotard and Lefort, amongst many others, that 
has generated a critical discourse around historical modernity as an 
epistemological structure. 5 To put it succinctly, the question of ethical 
and cultural judgement, central to the processes of subject formation and 
the objectification of social knowledge, is challenged at its 'cognitivist' 
core. Habermas characterizes it as a form of Occidental self -understand- 
ing that enacts a cognitive reductionism in the relation of the human 
being to the social world: 

Ontologically the world is reduced to a world of entities as a whole 
(as the totality of objects . . .); epistemologically, our relationship 
to that world is reduced to the capacity of know[ing] . . . states of 
affairs ... in a purposive-rational fashion; semantically it is 
reduced to fact-stating discourse in which assertoric sentences are 
used. 6 (My emphasis) 

Although this may be a stark presentation of the problem, it highlights 
the fact that the challenge to such a 'cognitivist' consciousness dis- 
places the problem of truth or meaning from the disciplinary confines 
of epistemology - the problem of the referential as 'objectivity' reflected 
in that celebrated Rortyesque trope, the mirror of nature. What results 
could be figuratively described as a preoccupation not simply with the 
reflection in the glass - the idea or concept in itself - but with 
the frameworks of meaning as they are revealed in what Derrida has 
called the 'supplementary necessity of a parergon'. That is the perform- 
ative, living description of the writing of a concept or theory, 'a relation 
to the history of its writing and the writing of its history also'. 7 

If we take even the most cursory view of influential postmodern 
perspectives, we find that there is an increasing narrativization of the 
question of social ethics and subject formation. Whether it is in the con- 
versational procedures and 'final vocabularies' of liberal ironists like 
Richard Rorty, or the 'moral fictions' of Alisdair Macintyre that are the 
sustaining myths 'after virtue'; whether it is the petits recits and phrases 
that remain from the fall-out of the grand narratives of modernity in 



Lyotard; or the projective but ideal speech community that is rescued 
within modernity by Habermas in his concept of communicative reason 
that is expressed in its pragmatic logic or argument and a 'decentred' 
understanding of the world: what we encounter in all these accounts 
are proposals for what is considered to be the essential gesture of 
Western modernity, an 'ethics of self-construction' - or, as Mladan Dolar 
cogently describes it: 

What makes this attitude typical of modernity is the constant 

reconstruction and the reinvention of the self The subject and 

the present it belongs to have no objective status, they have to be 
perpetually (re)constructed. 8 

I want to ask whether this synchronous constancy of reconstruction 
and reinvention of the subject does not assume a cultural temporality 
that may not be universalist in its epistemological moment of judgement, 
but may, indeed, be ethnocentric in its construction of cultural 'differ- 
ence'. It is certainly true, as Robert Young argues, that the 'inscription 
of alterity within the self can allow for a new relation to ethics';' but 
does that necessarily entail the more general case argued by Dolar, that 
'the persisting split [of the subject] is the condition of freedom'? 

If so, how do we specify the historical conditions and theoretical 
configurations of 'splitting' in political situations of 'unfreedom' - in 
the colonial and postcolonial margins of modernity? I am persuaded 
that it is the catachrestic postcolonial agency of 'seizing the value- 
coding' - as Gayatri Spivak has argued - that opens up an interruptive 
time-lag in the 'progressive' myth of modernity, and enables the diasp- 
oric and the postcolonial to be represented. But this makes it all the 
more crucial to specify the discursive and historical temporality that 
interrupts the enunciative 'present' in which the self -inventions of mod- 
ernity take place. And it is this 'taking place' of modernity, this insistent 
and incipient spatial metaphor in which the social relations of modernity 
are conceived, that introduces a temporality of the 'synchronous' in the 
structure of the 'splitting' of modernity. It is this 'synchronous and 
spatial' representation of cultural difference that must be reworked as 
a framework for cultural otherness within the general dialectic of doubling 
that postmodernism proposes. Otherwise we are likely to find ourselves 
beached amidst Jameson's 'cognitive mappings' of the Third World, 
which might work for the Bonaventura Hotel in Los Angeles, but will 
leave you somewhat eyeless in Gaza. 10 Or if, like Terry Eagleton, your 
taste is more 'other worldly' than Third World, you will find yourself 
somewhat dismissive of the 'real' history of the 'other' - women, for- 
eigners, homosexuals, the natives of Ireland - on the basis 'of certain 
styles, values, life-experiences which can be appealed to now as a form 
of political critique' because 'the fundamental political question is that of 



demanding an equal right with others of what one might become, not 
of assuming some fully-fashioned identity which is merely repressed.'" 
It is to establish a sign of the present, of modernity, that is not that 
'now' of transparent immediacy, and to found a form of social individu- 
ation where communality is not predicated on a transcendent becoming, that 
1 want to pose my questions of a contra-modemity: what is modernity in 
those colonial conditions where its imposition is itself the denial of 
historical freedom, civic autonomy and the 'ethical' choice of 


I am posing these questions from within the problematic of modernity 
because of a shift within contemporary critical traditions of postcolonial 
writing. There is no longer an influential separatist emphasis on simply 
elaborating an anti-imperialist or black nationalist tradition 'in itself. 
There is jn attempt to interrupt the Western discourses of modernity 
throu gh these displacing, interrogative subaltern or postslavery narra- 
tives and the critical-theoretical perspectives they engender. For 
example, Houston Baker's reading of the modernity of the Harlem 
Renaissance strategically elaborates a 'deformation of mastery', a ver- 
nacularism, based on the enunciation of the subject as 'never a simple 
coming into being, but a release from being possessed'. 12 The revision 
of Western modernism, he suggests, requires both the linguistic investi- 
ture of the subject and a practice of diasporic performance that is 
metaphorical. The 'public culture' project that Carol Breckenridge and 
Arjun Appadurai have initiated focuses on the transnational dissemi- 
nation of cultural modernity. What becomes properly urgent for them 
is that the 'simultaneous' global locations of such a modernity should 
not lose sense of the conflicrual, contradictory locutions of those cultural 
practices and products that follow the 'unequal development' of. the 
tracks of international or multinational capital.. . Any transnational cul- 
tural study must 'translate', each time locally and specifically, what 
decentres and subverts this transnational globality, so that it does not 
become enthralled by the new global technologies of ideological trans- 
mission and cultural consumption. 13 Paul Gilroy proposes a form of 
populist modernism to comprehend both the aesthetic and political 
transformation of European philosophy and letters by black writers, but 
also to 'make sense of the secular and spiritual popular forms - music 
and dance - that have handled the anxieties and dilemmas involved in 
a response to the flux of modern life'. 1 * 

The power of the postcolonial translation of modernity rests in its 
performative, deformative structure that does not simply revalue the con- 
tents of a cultural tradition, or transpose values 'cross-culturally'. The 



cultural inheritance of slavery or colonialism is brought before modernity 
not to resolve its historic differences into a new totality, nor to forego 
its traditions. It is to introduce another locus of inscription and inter- 
vention, another hybrid, 'inappropriate' enunciative site,, through that 
temporal split - or time-lag - that I have opened up (specifically in 
Chapter 9) for the signification of postcolonial agency. Differences 
in culture and power are constituted through the social conditions of 
enunciation: the temporal caesura, which is also the historically tranform- 
ative moment j when a lagged space opens up in-between the mfersubjec- 
tiye 'reality of signs . . . deprived of subjectivity' and the historical 
development of the subject in the order of social symbols. 15 This transva- 
luation of the symbolic structure of the cultural sign is absolutely neces- 
sary so that in the renaming of modernity there may ensue that process 
of the active agency of translation - foe moment of 'making a name for 
oneself that emerges through 'the undecidability ... [at work] in a 
struggle for the proper name within a scene of genealogical indebted- 
ness'. 16 Without such a reinscription of the sign itself - without a trans- 
formation of the site of enunciation - there is the danger that the mimetic 
contents of a discourse will conceal the fact that the hegemonic struc- 
tures of power are maintained in a position of authority through a shift 
in vocabulary in the position of authority. There is for instance a kinship 
between the normative paradigms of colonial anthropology and the 
contemporary discourse of aid and development agencies. The 'transfer 
of technology' has not resulted in the transfer of power or the displace- 
ment of a neo-colonial tradition of political control through philanthropy 
- a celebrated missionary position. 

What is the struggle of translation in the name of modernity? How 
do we catachrestically seize the genealogy of modernity and open it to 
the postcolonial translation? The 'value' of modernity is not located, a 
priori, in the passive fact of an epochal event or idea - of progress, 
civility, the law - but has to be negotiated within the 'enunciative' 
present of the discourse. The brilliance of Claude Leforfs account of 
the genesis of ideology in modem societies is to suggest that the rep- 
resentation of the rule, or the discourse of generality that symbolizes 
authority, is ambivalent because it is split off from its effective oper- 
ation. 17 The new or the contemporary appear through the splitting of 
modernity as event and enunciation, the epochal and the everyday. 
Modernity as a sign of the present emerges in that process of splitting, 
that lag, that gives the practice of everyday life its consistency as being 
contemporary. It is because the present has the value of a 'sign' that 
modernity is iterative; a continual questioning of the conditions of 
existence; making problematic its own discourse not simply 'as ideas' 
but as the position and status of the locus of social utterance. 




'It is not enough ... to follow the teleological thread that makes progress 
possible; one must isolate, within the history [of modernity], an event 
that will have the value of a sign.' 18 In his reading of Kant's Was ist 
Aufklarung? Foucault suggests that the sign of modernity is a form of 
decipherment whose value must be sought in petits recits, imperceptible 
events, in signs apparently ivithout meaning and value - empty and ex- 
centric - in events that are outside the 'great events' of history. 

The sign of history does not consist in an essence of the event itself, 
nor exclusively in the immediate consciousness of its agents and actors, 
but in its form as a spectacle; spectacle that signifies because of the 
distanciation and displacement between the event and those who are 
its spectators. The indeterminacy of modernity, where the struggle of 
translation takes place, is not simply around the ideas of progress or 
truth. Modernity, I suggest, is about the historical construction of a 
specific position of historical enunciation and address. It privileges those 
who 'bear witness', those who are 'subjected', or in the Fanonian sense 
with which I began, historically displaced. It gives them a representative 
position through the spatial distance, or the time-lag between the Great 
Event and its circulation as a historical sign of the 'people' or an 'epoch', 
that constitutes the memory and the moral of the event as a narrative, 
a disposition to cultural communality, a form of social and psychic 
identification. The discursive address of modernity - its structure of 
authority - decentres the Great Event, and speaks from that moment 
of 'imperceptibility', the supplementary space 'outside' or uncannily 
beside (abseits). 

Through Kant, Foucault traces 'the ontology of the present' to the 
exemplary event of the French Revolution and it is there that he stages 
his sign of modernity. But it is the spatial dimension of 'distance - the 
perspectival distance from which the spectacle is seen - that installs a cultural 
homogeneity into the sign of modernity. Foucault introduces a Eurocen- 
tric perspective at the point at which modernity installs a 'moral dispo- 
sition in mankind'. The Eurocentricity of Foucault's theory of cultural 
difference is revealed in his insistent spatializing of the time of mod- 
ernity. Avoiding the problems of the sovereign subject and linear caus- 
ality, he nonetheless falls prey to the notion of the 'cultural' as a social 
formation whose discursive doubleness - the transcendental and empiri- 
cal dialectic - is contained in a temporal frame that makes differences 
repetitively 'contemporaneous', regimes of sense-as-synchronous. It is a 
kind of cultural 'contradictoriness' that always presupposes a correlative 
spacing. Foucault's spatial distancing seals the sign of modernity in 1789 
into a 'correlative', overlapping temporality. Progress brings together 
the three moments of the sign as: 



a signum rememorativum, for it reveals that disposition [of progress] 
which has been present from the beginning; it is a signum demon- 
strativum because it demonstrates the present efficacity of this dis- 
position; and it is also signum prognosticum for, although the 
Revolution may have certain questionable results, one cannot 
forget the disposition [of modernity] that is revealed through it. 19 

What if the effects of 'certain questionable results' of the Revolution 
create a disjunction, between the signum demonstrativum and the signum 
prognosticum? What if in the geopolitical space of the colony genealogi- 
cally (in Foucault's sense) related to the Western metropolis, the symbol 
of the Revolution is partially visible as an unforgettable, tantalizing 
promise - a pedagogy of the values of modernity - while the 'present 
efficacy' of the sign of everyday life - its political performativity - repeats 
the archaic aristocratic racism of the ancien regime? 

The ethnocentric limitations of Foucault's spatial sign of modernity 
become immediately apparent if we take our stand, in the immediate 
postrevolutionary period, in San Domingo with the Black Jacobins, 
rather than Paris. What if the 'distance' that constitutes the meaning of 
the Revolution as sign, the signifying lag between event and enunciation, 
stretches not across the Place de la Bastille or the rue des Blancs- 
Monteaux, but spans the temporal difference of the colonial space? What 
if we heard the 'moral disposition of mankind' uttered by Toussaint 
L'Ouverture for whom, as C. L. R. James so vividly recalls, the signs of 
modernity, 'liberty, equality, fraternity . . . what the French Revolution 
signified, was perpetually on his lips, in his correspondence, in his 
private conversations.' 20 What do we make of the figure of Toussaint - 
James invokes Phedre, Ahab, Hamlet - at the moment when he grasps 
the tragic lesson that the moral, modern disposition of mankind, 
enshrined in the sign of the Revolution, only fuels the archaic racial 
factor in the society of slavery? What do we learn from that split 
consciousness, that 'colonial' disjunction of modem times and colonial 
and slave histories, where the reinvention of the self and the remaking 
of the social are strictly out of joint? 

These are the issues of the catachrestic, postcolonial translation of 
modernity. They force us to introduce the question of subaltern agency, 
into the question of modernity: what is this 'now' of modernity? Who 
defines this present from which we speak? This leads to a more challeng- 
ing question: what is the desire of this repeated demand to modernize? Why 
does it insist, so compulsively, on its contemporaneous reality, its spatial 
dimension, its spectatorial distance? What happens to the sign of modernity 
in those repressive places like San Domingo where progress is only 
heard (of) and not 'seen', is that it reveals the problem of the disjunctive 
moment of its utterance: the space which enables a postcolonial contra- 



modernity to emerge. For the discourse of modernity is signified from 
the time-lag, or temporal caesura, that emerges in the tension between 
the epochal 'event' of modernity as the symbol of the continuity of 
progress, and the interruptive temporality of the sign of the present, the 
contingency of modern times that Habermas has aptly described as its 
'forward gropings and shocking encounters'. 21 

In this 'time' of repetition there circulates a contingent tension within 
modernity: a tension between the pedagogy of the symbols of progress, 
historicism, modernization, homogeneous empty time, the narcissism of 
organic culture, the onanistic search for the origins of race, and what I 
shall call the 'sign of the present': the performativity of discursive 
practice, the recits of the everyday, the repetition of the empirical, the 
ethics of self -enactment, the iterative signs that mark the non-synchronic 
passages of time in the archives of the 'new'. This is the space in which 
the question of modernity emerges as a form of interrogation: what do I 
belong to in this present? In what terms do I identify with the 'we', the 
intersubjective realm of society? This process cannot be represented in 
the binary relation of archaism /modernity, inside /outside, past/present, 
because these questions block off the forward drive or teleology of 
modernity. They suggest that what is read as the 'futurity' of the 
modem, its ineluctable progress, its cultural hierarchies, may be an 
'excess', a disturbing alterity, a process of the marginalization of the 
symbols of modernity. 

Time-lag is not a circulation of nullity, the endless slippage of the 
signifier or the theoretical anarchy of aporia. It is a concept that does 
not collude with current fashions for claiming the heterogeneity of ever- 
increasing 'causes', multiplicities of subject positions, endless supplies 
of subversive 'specificities', 'localities', 'territories'. The problem of the 
articulation of cultural difference is not the problem of free-wheeling 
pragmatist pluralism or the 'diversity' of the many; it is the problem of 
the not-one, the minus in the origin and repetition of cultural signs 
in a doubling that will not be sublated into a similitude. What is in 
modernity more than modernity is this signifying 'cut' or temporal break: 
it cuts into the plenitudinous notion of Culture splendidly reflected in 
the mirror of human nature; equally it halts the endless signification of 
difference. The process I have described as the sign of the present - 
within modernity - erases and interrogates those ethnocentric forms of 
cultural modernity that 'contemporize' cultural difference: it opposes 
both cultural pluralism with its spurious egalitarianism - different cul- 
tures in the same time ('The Magicians of the Earth', Pompidou Centre, 
Paris, 1989) - or cultural relativism - different cultural temporalities in 
the same 'universal' space ('The Primitivism show', MOMA, New York, 




This caesura in the narrative of modernity reveals something of what 
de Certeau has famously described as the non-place from which all 
historiographical operation starts, the lag which all histories must 
encounter in order to make a beginning. 22 For the emergence of mod- 
ernity - as an ideology of beginning, modernity as the new - the template 
of this 'non-place' becomes the colonial space. It signifies this in a 
double way. The colonial space is the terra incognita or the terra nulla, 
the empty or wasted land whose history has to be begun, whose archives 
must be filled out; whose future progress must be secured in modernity. 
But the colonial space also stands for the despotic time of the Orient that 
becomes a great problem for the definition of modernity and its inscrip- 
tion of the history of the colonized from the perspective of the West. 
Despotic time, as Althusser has brilliantly described it, is 'space without 
places, time without duration'. 23 In that double-figure which haunted 
the moment of the enlightenment in its relation to the otherness of the 
Other, you can see the historical formation of the time-lag of modernity. 
And lest it be said that this disjunctive present of modernity is merely 
my theoretical abstraction, let me also remind you that a similar, signify- 
ing caesura occurs within the invention of progress in the 'long imperial- 
ist nineteenth century'. At the mid-point of the century questions 
concerning the 'origin of races' provided modernity with an ontology 
of its present and a justification of cultural hierarchy within the West 
and in the East. In the structure of the discourse, however, there was a 
recurrent ambivalence between the developmental, organic notion of 
cultural and racial 'indigenism' as the justification of supremacy, and 
the notion of evolution as abrupt cultural transition, discontinuous pro- 
gress, the periodic eruption of invading tribes from somewhere mysteri- 
ous in Asia, as the guarantee of progress. 24 

The 'subalterns and ex-slaves' who now seize the spectacular event 
of modernity do so in a catachrestic gesture of reinscribing modernity's 
'caesura' and using it to transform the locus of thought and writing in 
their postcolonial critique. Listen to the ironic naming, the interrogative 
repetitions, of the critical terms themselves: black 'vernacularism' 
repeats the minor term used to designate the language of the native 
and the housebound slave to make demotic the grander narratives of 
progress. Black 'expressivism' reverses the stereotypical affectivity and 
sensuality of the stereotype to suggest that 'rationalities are produced 
endlessly 1 in populist modernism. 25 'New ethnicity' is used by Stuart 
Hall in the black British context to create a discourse of cultural differ- 
ence that marks ethnicity as the struggle against ethnicist 'fixing' and 
in favour of a wider minority discourse that represents sexuality 
and class. Cornel West's genealogical materialist view of race and Afro- 



American oppression is, he writes, 1>oth continuous and discontinuous 
with the Marxist tradition' and shares an equally contingent relation to 
Nietzsche and Foucault. 26 More recently, he has constructed a prophetic 
pragmatic tradition from William James, Niebuhr and Du Bois suggest- 
ing that 'it is possible to be a prophetic pragmatist and belong to 
different political movements, e.g. feminist, Black, chicano, socialist, 
left-liberal ones.' 27 The Indian historian Gyan Prakash, in an essay on 
postorientalist histories of the Third World, claims that: 

it is difficult to overlook the fact that . . . third world voices . . . 
speak within and to discourses familiar to the 'West'. . . . The Third 
World, far from being confined to its assigned space, has pene- 
trated the inner sanctum of the 'First World' in the process of 
being 'Third Worlded' - arousing, inciting, and affiliating with the 
subordinated others in the First World ... to connect with minority 
voices. 28 

The intervention of postcolonial or black critique is aimed at trans- 
forming the conditions of enunciation at the level of the sign - where 
the intersubjective realm is constituted - not simply setting up new 
symbols of identity, new 'positive images' that fuel an unreflective 
'identity polities'. The challenge to modernity comes in redefining the 
signifying relation to a disjunctive 'present': staging the past as symbol, 
myth, memory, history, the ancestral - but a past whose iterative value 
as sign reinscribes the 'lessons of the past' into the very textuality of the 
present that determines both the identification with, and the interrog- 
ation of, modernity: what is the 'we' that defines the prerogative of my 
present? The possibility of inciting cultural translations across minority 
discourses arises because of the disjunctive present of modernity. It 
ensures that what seems the 'same' within cultures is negotiated in the 
time-lag of the 'sign' which constitutes the intersubjective, social realm. 
Because that lag is indeed the very structure of difference and splitting 
within the discourse of modernity, turning it into a performative process, 
then each repetition of the sign of modernity is different, specific to its 
historical and cultural conditions of enunciation. 

This process is most clearly apparent in the work of those 'postmod- 
ern' writers who, in pushing the paradoxes of modernity to its limits, 
reveal the margins of the West. 29 From the postcolonial perspective we 
can only assume a disjunctive and displaced relation to these works; 
we cannot accept them until we subject them to a lagging: both in 
the temporal sense of postcolonial agency with which you are now 
(over)f amiliar, and in the obscurer sense in which, in the early days of 
settler colonization, to be lagged was to be transported to the colonies 
for penal servitude! 

In Foucault's Introduction to the History of Sexuality, racism emerges 



in the nineteenth century in the form of an historical retroversion that 
Foucault finally disavows. In the 'modem' shift of power from the 
juridical politics of death to the biopolitics of life, race produces a 
historical temporality of interference, overlapping, and the displacement 
of sexuality. It is, for Foucault, the great historical irony of modernity 
that the Hitlerite annihilation of the Jews was carried out in the name 
of the archaic, premodem signs of race and sanguinity - the oneiric 
exaltation of blood, death, skin - rather than through the politics of 
sexuality. What is profoundly revealing is Foucault's complicity with 
the logic of the 'contemporaneous' within Western modernity. Character- 
izing the 'symbolics of blood' as being retroverse, Foucault disavows 
the time-lag of race as the sign of cultural difference and its mode of 

The temporal disjunction that the 'modem' question of race would 
introduce into the discourse of disciplinary and pastoral power is disal- 
lowed because of Foucault's spatial critique: 'we must conceptualize the 
deployment of sexuality on the basis of the techniques of power that 
are contemporary with it' (my emphasis). 30 However subversive 'blood' 
and race may be they are in the last analysis merely an 'historical 
retroversion'. Elsewhere Foucault directly links the 'flamboyant ration- 
ality' of Social Darwinism to Nazi ideology, entirely ignoring colonial 
societies which were the proving grounds for Social Darwinist adminis- 
trative discourses all through the nineteenth and early twentieth cen- 
turies. 31 

If Foucault normalizes the time-lagged, 'retroverse' sign of race, 
Benedict Anderson places the 'modem' dreams of racism 'outside 
history' altogether. For Foucault race and blood interfere with modem 
sexuality. For Anderson racism has its origins in antique ideologies of 
class that belong to the aristocratic 'pre-history' of the modem nation. 
Race represents an archaic ahistorical moment outside the 'modernity' 
of the imagined community: 'nationalism thinks in historical destinies, 
while racism dreams of eternal contaminations ... outside history.' 32 
Foucault's spatial notion of the conceptual contemporaneity of power- 
as-sexuality limits him from seeing the double and overdetermined 
structure of race and sexuality that has a long history in the peuplement 
(politics of settlement) of colonial societies; for Anderson the 'modem' 
anomaly of racism finds its historical modularity, and its fantasmatic 
scenario, in the colonial space which is a belated and hybrid attempt to 
'weld together dynastic legitimacy and national community ... to shore 
up domestic aristocratic bastions'. 33 

The racism of colonial empires is then part of an archaic acting out, 
a dream-text of a form of historical retroversion that 'appeared to con- 
firm on a global, modem stage antique conceptions of power and privi- 
lege'. 34 What could have been a way of understanding the limits of 



Western imperialist ideas of progress within the genealogy of a 'colonial 
metropolis' - a hybridizing of the Western nation - is quickly disavowed 
in the language of the opera bouffe as a grimly amusing tableau vivant of 
'the [colonial] bourgeois gentilhomme speaking poetry against a back- 
cloth of spacious mansions and gardens filled with mimosa and bou- 
gainvillea'. 35 It is in that 'weld' of the colonial site as, contradictorily, 
both 'dynastic and national', that the modernity of Western national 
society is confronted by its colonial double. Such a moment of temporal 
disjunction, which would be crucial for understanding the colonial his- 
tory of contemporary metropolitan racism in the West, is placed 'outside 
history'. It is obscured by Anderson's espousal of 'a simultaneity across 
homogeneous empty time' as the modal narrative of the imagined com- 
munity. It is this kind of evasion, I think, that makes Partha Chatterjee, 
the Indian 'subaltern' scholar, suggest, from a different perspective, that 
Anderson 'seals up his theme with a sociological determinism . . . with- 
out noticing the twists and turns, the suppressed possibilities, the contra- 
dictions still unresolved'. 36 

These accounts of the modernity of power and national community 
become strangely symptomatic at the point at which they create a rhet- 
oric of 'retroversion' for the emergence of racism. In placing the rep- 
resentations of race 'outside' modernity, in the space of historical 
retroversion, Foucault reinforces his 'correlative spacing'; by relegating 
the social fantasy of racism to an archaic daydream, Anderson further 
universalizes his homogeneous empty time of the 'modem' social 
imaginary. Hidden in the disavowing narrative of historical retroversion 
and its archaism, is a notion of the time-lag that displaces Foucault's 
spatial analytic of modernity and Anderson's homogeneous temporality 
of the modem nation. In order to extract the one from the other we 
have to see how they form a double boundary: rather like the more 
general intervention and seizure of the history of modernity that has 
been attempted by postcolonial critics. 

Retroversion and archaic doubling, attributed to the ideological 'con- 
tents' of racism, do not remain at the ideational or pedagogical level of 
the discourse. Their inscription of a structure of retroaction returns to 
disrupt the enunciative function of this discourse and produce a differ- 
ent 'value' of the sign and time of race and modernity. At the level of 
content the archaism and fantasy of racism is represented as 'ahistorical', 
outside the progressive myth of modernity. This is an attempt, I would 
argue, to universalize the spatial fantasy of modem cultural communi- 
ties as living their history 'contemporaneously', in a 'homogeneous 
empty time' of the People-as-One that finally deprives minorities of 
those marginal, liminal spaces from which they can intervene in the 
unifying and totalizing myths of the national culture. 

However, each time such a homogeneity of cultural identification is 



established there is a marked disturbance of temporality in the writing 
of modernity. For Foucault it is the awareness that retroversion of race 
or sanguinity haunts and doubles the contemporary analytic of power 
and sexuality and may be subversive of it: we may need to think the 
disciplinary powers of race as sexuality in a hybrid cultural formation 
that will not be contained within Foucault's logic of the contemporary 
Anderson goes further in acknowledging that colonial racism introduces 
an awkward weld, a strange historical 'suture', in the narrative of the 
nation's modernity. The archaism of colonial racism, as a form of cultural 
signification (rather than simply an ideological content), reactivates 
nothing less than the 'primal scene' of the modern Western nation: that 
is, the problematic historical transition between dynastic, lineage 
societies and horizontal, homogeneous secular communities. What And- 
erson designates as racism's 'timelessness', its location 'outside history', 
is in fact that form of time-lag, a mode of repetition and reinscription, 
that performs the ambivalent historical temporality of modern national 
cultures - the aporetic coexistence, within the cultural history of the modern 
imagined community, of both the dynastic, hierarchical, prefigurative 
'medieval' traditions (the past), and the secular, homogeneous, 
synchronous cross-time of modernity (the present). Anderson resists a 
reading of the modern nation that suggests - in an iterative time-lag - 
that the hybridity of the colonial space may provide a pertinent problem- 
atic within which to write the history of the 'postmodern' national 
formations of the West. 

To take this perspective would mean that we see 'racism' not simply 
as a hangover from archaic conceptions of the aristocracy, but as part 
of the historical traditions of civic and liberal humanism that create 
ideological matrices of national aspiration, together with their concepts 
of 'a people' and its imagined community. Such a privileging of ambiv- 
alence in the social imaginaries of nationless, and its forms of collective 
affiliation, would enable us to understand the coeval, often incommensur- 
able tension between the influence of traditional 'ethnicist' identifications 
that coexist with contemporary secular, modernizing aspirations. The 
enunciative 'present' of modernity, that I am proposing, would provide 
a political space to articulate and negotiate such culturally hybrid social 
identities. Questions of cultural difference would not be dismissed - 
with a barely concealed racism - as atavistic 'tribal' instincts that afflict 
Irish Catholics in Belfast or 'Muslim fundamentalists' in Bradford. It is 
precisely such unresolved, transitional moments within the disjunctive 
present of modernity that are then projected into a time of historical 
retroversion or an inassimilable place outside history. 

The history of modernity's antique dreams is to be found in the writing 
out of the colonial and postcolonial moment. In resisting these attempts 
to normalize the time-lagged colonial moment, we may provide a gen- 



ealogy for postmodemity that is at least as important as the 'aporetic' 
history of the Sublime or the nightmare of rationality in Auschwitz. For 
colonial and postcolonial texts do not merely tell the modem history of 
'unequal development' or evoke memories of underdevelopment. I have 
tried to suggest that they provide modernity with a modular moment 
of enunciation: the locus and locution of cultures caught in the tran- 
sitional and disjunctive temporalities of modernity. What is in modernity 
more than modernity is the disjunctive 'postcolonial' time and space that 
makes its presence felt at the level of enunciation. It figures, in an influen- 
tial contemporary fictional instance, as the contingent margin between 
Toni Morrison's indeterminate moment of the 'not-there' - a 'black' 
space that she distinguishes from the Western sense of synchronous 
tradition - which then turns into the 'first stroke' of slave rememory, 
the time of communality and the narrative of a history of slavery (see 
pp. 191-2 for an elaboration of this issue). This translation of the mean- 
ing of time into the discourse of space; this catachrestic seizure of the 
signifying 'caesura' of modernity's presence and present; this insistence 
that power must be thought in the hybridity of race and sexuality; that 
nation must be reconceived liminally as the dynastic-in-the-democratic, 
race-difference doubling and splitting the teleology of class-conscious- 
ness: it is through these iterative interrogations and historical initiations 
that the cultural location of modernity shifts to the postcolonial site. 


I have attempted, then, to designate a postcolonial 'enunciative' present 
that moves beyond Foucault's reading of the task of modernity as 
providing an ontology of the present. I have tried to open up, once 
again, the cultural space in the temporal doubling of sign and symbol 
that I described in Chapter 9 (pp. 192-3): from the stroke of the sign that 
establishes the intersubjective world of truth 'deprived of subjectivity', 
back to the rediscovery of that moment of agency and individuation in 
the social imaginary of the order of historic symbols. I have attempted 
to provide a form of the writing of cultural difference in the midst of 
modernity that is inimical to binary boundaries: whether these be 
between past and present, inside and outside, subject and object, signi- 
fier and signified. This spatial-time of cultural difference - with its 
postcolonial genealogy - erases the Occidental 'culture of common 
sense' that Derrida aptly describes as 'ontologizing the limit between 
outside and inside, between the biophysical and the psychic'. 37 In his 
essay The uncolonized mind: Postcolonial India and the East', Ashis 
Nandy provides a more descriptive illustration of a postcolonial India 
that is neither modem nor anti-modem but non-modem. What this 
entails for the 'modem antonyms' of cultural difference between the 



First and Third Worlds, requires a form of time-lagged signification, for 
as he writes: 

this century has shown that in every situation of organized 
oppression the true antonyms are always the exclusive part versus 

the inclusive whole [N]ot the past versus the present but either 

of them versus the rationality which turns them into co-victims. 38 

In splitting open those 'welds' of modernity, a postcolonial contra- 
modemity becomes visible. What Foucault and Anderson disavow as 
'retroversion' emerges as a retroactivity, a form of cultural reinscription 
that moves back to the future. I shall call it a 'projective' past, a form of 
the future anterior. Without the postcolonial time-lag the discourse 
of modernity cannot, I believe, be written; with the projective past it can 
be inscribed as a historical narrative of alterity that explores forms of 
social antagonism and contradiction that are not yet properly repre- 
sented, political identities in the process of being formed, cultural enun- 
ciations in the act of hybridity, in the process of translating and 
transvaluing cultural differences. The political space for such a social 
imaginary is that marked out by Raymond Williams in his distinction 
between emergent and residual practices of oppositionality that require 
a 'non-metaphysical and non-subjectivist' sociohistorical positionality. 39 
This largely unexplored and undeveloped aspect of Williams's work has 
a contemporary relevance for those burgeoning forces of the 'cultural' 
left who are attempting to formulate (the unfortunately entitled) 'politics 
of difference', grounded in the experience and theory of the 'new social 
movements'. Williams suggests that in certain historical moments, the 
'profound deformation' of the dominant culture will prevent it from 
recognizing 'practices and meanings that are not reached for' and these 
potentially empowering perspectives, and their political constituencies, 
will remain profoundly unsignified and silent within the political cul- 
ture. Stuart Hall takes this argument forward in his attempt to construct 
an alternative 'modernity' where, he suggests, 'organic' ideologies are 
neither consistent nor homogeneous and the subjects of ideology are not 
unitarily assigned to a singular social position. Their 'strangely com- 
posite' construction requires a redefinition of the public sphere to take 
account of the historical transformation by which 

it follows that an alternative conception of socialism must embrace 
this struggle to democratize power across all the centres of social 
activity - in private as well as in public life, in personal associations 
as well as in public obligations. ... If the struggle for socialism in 
modem societies is a war of position, then our conception of 
society must be of a society of positions - different places from 



which we can all begin the reconstruction of society of which the 
state is only the anachronistic caretaker. 40 

Such a form of the social (or socialist) imaginary 'blocks' the totalization 
of the site of social utterance. This encounter with the time-lag of rep- 
resentation insists that any form of political emergence must encounter 
the contingent place from where its narrative begins in relation to the 
temporalities of other marginal 'minority' histories that are seeking their 
'individuation', their vivid realization. There is a focus on what Houston 
Baker has emphasized, for Black Renaissancism, as 'the processual qual- 
ity [of meaning] . . . not material instantiation at any given moment but 
the efficacy of passage'. And such a passage of historical experience 
lived through the time-lag opens up quite suddenly in a poem by the 
Afro-American poet, Sonia Sanchez: 

life is obscene with crowds 

of black on white 

death is my pulse. 

what might have been 

is not for him/or me 

but what could have been 

floods the womb until I drown 41 

You can hear it in the ambiguity between 'what might have been' and 
'what could have been' - the contingency, the closeness of those rhetorics 
of indeterminacy. You read it in that considerable shift in historical time 
between the conditions of an obscene past - might have been - and the 
conditionally of a new birth - could have been; you barely see it in 
the almost imperceptible shift in tense and syntax - mightxould - that 
makes all the difference between the pulse of death and the flooded 
womb of birth. It is the repetition of the 'could-in-the-might' that 
expresses the marginalized disjunctive experience of the subject of 
racism - obscene with crowds/ of black on white, the passage of a 'projective 
past' in the very time of its performance. 

The postcolonial passage through modernity produces that form of 
repetition - the past as projective. The time-lag of postcolonial mod- 
ernity moves forward, erasing that compliant past tethered to the myth 
of progress, ordered in the binarisms of its cultural logic: past/present, 
inside/outside. This forward is neither teleological nor is it an endless 
slippage. It is the function of the lag to slow down the linear, progressive 
time of modernity to reveal its 'gesture', its tempi, 'the pauses and 
stresses of the whole performance'. This can only be achieved - as 
Walter Benjamin remarked of Brecht's epic theatre - by damming the 
stream of real life, by bringing the flow to a standstill in a reflux of 
astonishment. When the dialectic of modernity is brought to a standstill, 



then the temporal action of modernity - its progressive, future drive - 
is staged, revealing 'everything that is involved in the act of staging per 
se'. a This slowing down, or lagging, impels the 'past', projects it, gives 
its 'dead' symbols the circulatory life of the 'sign' of the present, of 
passage, the quickening of the quotidian. Where these temporalities touch 
contingently, their spatial boundaries metonymically overlapping, at that 
moment their margins are lagged, sutured, by the indeterminate articu- 
lation of the 'disjunctive' present. Time-lag keeps alive the making of the 
past. As it negotiates the levels and liminalities of that spatial time that 
I have tried to unearth in the postcolonial archaeology of modernity, 
you might think that it 'lacks' time or history. Don't be fooled! 

It may appear 'timeless' only in that sense in which, for Toni Morrison, 
Afro-American art is 'astonished' by the figure of the ancestor: 'the 
timelessness is there, this person who represented this ancestor. '° And 
when the ancestor rises from the dead in the guise of the murdered 
daughter, Beloved, then we see the furious emergence of the projective 
past. Beloved is not the ancestor as the 'elder' whom Morrison describes 
as benevolent, instructive and protective. Her presence, which is pro- 
foundly time-lagged, moves forward while continually encircling that 
moment of the 'not-there' which Morrison sees as the stressed, dislo- 
catory absence that is crucial for the rememoration of the narrative of 
slavery. Ella, a member of the chorus, standing at that very distance from 
the 'event' from which modernity produces its 'sign', now describes the 
projective past: 

The future was sunset; the past something to leave behind. And if 
it didn't stay behind you might have to stomp it out. ... As long 

as the ghost showed out from its ghostly place Ella respected 

it. But if it took flesh and came in her world, well, the shoe was 
on the other foot. She didn't mind a little communication between 
the two worlds, but this was an invasion. 44 

Ella bears witness to this invasion of the projective past. Toussaint 
bears witness to the tragic dissolution, in San Domingo, of the sign of 
the Revolution. In these forms of witness there is no passivity; there is 
a violent turning from interrogation to initiation. We have not simply 
opposed the idea of progress with other 'ideas': the battle has been 
waged on hybrid territory, in the discontinuity and distanciation between 
event and enunciation, in the time-lag in-between sign and symbol. I have 
attempted to constitute a postcolonial, critical discourse that contests 
modernity through the establishment of other historical sites, other 
forms of enunciation. 

In the figure of the witness of a postcolonial modernity we have 
another wisdom: it comes from those who have seen the nightmare of 
racism and oppression in the banal daylight of the everyday. They 



represent an idea of action and agency more complex than either the 
nihilism of despair or the Utopia of progress. They speak of the reality 
of survival and negotiation that constitutes the moment of resistance, 
its sorrow and its salvation, but is rarely spoken in the heroisms or the 
honors of history. Ella says it, plainly: 'What is to be done in a world 
where even when you were a solution you were a problem.' This is not 
defeatism. It is an enactment of the limits of the 'idea' of progess, the 
marginal displacement of the ethics of modernity. The sense of Ella's 
words, and my chapter, echo in that great prophet of the double con- 
sciousness of modem America who spoke across the veil, against what 
he called 'the colour-line'. Nowhere has the historical problem of cul- 
tural temporality as constituting the 'belatedness' of subjects of 
oppression and dispossession been spoken more pertinently than in the 
words of W. E. Du Bois - I like to think that they are the prophetic 
precursor of my discourse of the time-lag: 

So woefully unorganized is sociological knowledge that the mean- 
ing of progress, the meaning of swift and slow in human doing, 
and the limits of human perfectibility, are veiled, unanswered 
sphinxes on the shores of science. Why should Aeschylus have 
sung two thousand years before Shakespeare was bom? Why has 
civilization flourished in Europe and flickered, flamed and died in 
Africa? So long as the world stands meekly dumb before such 
questions, shall this nation proclaim its ignorance and unhallowed 
prejudices by denying freedom of opportunity to those who 
brought the Sorrow Songs to the Seats of the Mighty? 45 

E>u Bois makes a fine answer in the threnody of the Sorrow Songs, 
their eloquent omissions and silences that 'conceal much of real poetry 
beneath conventional theology and unmeaning rhapsody'. 46 In the inver- 
sion of our catachrestic, critical process, we find that the 'unmeaning', 
the non-sense of the sign discloses a symbolic vision of a form of 
progress beyond modernity and its sociology - but not without the 
enigmatic riddle of the sphinx. To turn Ella's words: what do we do in 
a world where even when there is a resolution of meaning there is a 
problem of its performativity? An indeterminacy which is also the con- 
dition of its being historical? A contingency which is also the possibility 
of cultural translation? You heard it in the repetition of Sonia Sanchez 
as she turned the historical obscenity of 'what might have been' into 
the projective past, the empowering vision of 'what could have been'. 
Now you see it in the gaze of the unanswered sphinxes: Du Bois' 
answer comes through the rhythm of the swift and slow of human 
doing itself as he commands the certain shores of 'modem' science to 
recede. The problem of progress is not simply an unveiling of human 
perfectibility, not simply the hermeneutic of progress. In the 



performance of human doing, through the veil, emerges a figure of 
cultural time where perfectibility is not ineluctably tied to the myth 
of progressivism. The rhythm of the Sorrow Songs may at times be 
swift - like the projective past - at other times it may be slow - like 
the time-lag. What is crucial to such a vision of the future is the belief 
that we must not merely change the narratives of our histories, but 
transform our sense of what it means to live, to be, in other times and 
different spaces, both human and historical. 




1 For an interesting discussion of gender boundaries in the fin de siicle, see E. 
Showalter, Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture in the Fin de Siicle (London: 
Bloomsbury, 1990), especially 'Borderlines', pp. 1-18. 

2 Renee Green interviewed by Elizabeth Brown, from catalogue published by 
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio. 

3 Interview conducted by Miwon Kwon for the exhibition 'Emerging New 
York Artists', Sala Mendonza, Caracas, Venezuela (xeroxed manuscript copy). 

4 ibid., p. 6. 

5 Renee Green in conversation with Donna Harkavy, Curator of Contemporary 
Art at the Worcester Museum. 

6 ibid. 

7 W. Benjamin, 'Theses on the philosophy of history', in his Illuminations 
(London: Jonathan Cape, 1970), p. 265. 

8 M. Heidegger, 'Building, dwelling, thinking', in Poetry, Language, Thought 
(New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 152-3. 

9 S. Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (London: Viking, 1988), p. 343. 

10 G. Gomez-Pena, American Theatre, vol. 8, no. 7, October 1991. 

11 T. Ybarra-Frausto, 'Chicano movement/ chicano art' in I. Karp and S.D. 
Lavine (eds) (Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 
pp. 133-4. 

12 A. Sekula, Fish Story, manuscript, p. 2. 

13 ibid., p. 3. 

14 F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, Introduction by H. K. Bhabha (London: 
Pluto, 1986), pp. 218, 229, 231. 

15 H. James, 77k Portrait of a Lady (New York: Norton, 1975), p. 360. 

16 ibid., p. 361. 

17 T. Morrison, Beloved (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987), pp. 198-9. 

18 R. Tagore, 77k Home and the World (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985), pp. 70-1. 

19 N. Gordimer, My Son's Story (London: Bloomsbury, 1990), p. 249. 

20 S. Freud, 'The uncanny', Standard Edition XVII, p. 225; H. Arendt, The Human 
Condition (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1958), p. 72. 

21 Morrison, Beloved, p. 170. 

22 W. H. Auden, 'The cave of making', in his About the House (London: Faber, 
1959), p. 20. 

23 Goethe's Literary Essays, J. E. Spingam (ed.) (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 
1921), pp. 98-9. 



24 77k Autobwgraphy of Goethe, J. Oxenford (ed.) (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1948), 
p. 467. 

25 Goethe, 'Note on world literature', p. 96. 

26 T. Morrison, Honey and Rue programme notes, Carnegie Hall Concert, January 

27 Gordimer, My Son's Story, pp. 20-1. 

28 ibid., p. 21. 

29 ibid., p. 230. 

30 ibid. 

31 ibid, p. 241. 

32 ibid. 

33 ibid. 

34 ibid., p. 214. 

35 ibid, p. 243. 

36 ibid., p. 249. 

37 E. Levinas, 'Reality and its shadow', in Collected Philosophical Papers 
(Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1987), pp. 1-13. 

38 ibid. 

39 ibid., pp. 6-7. 

40 Robert Bemasconi quoted in 'Levinas's ethical discourse, between individu- 
ation and universality', in Re-Reading Levinas, R. Bemasconi and S. Critchley, 
(eds) (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), p. 90. 

41 Morrison, Beloved, p. 116. 

42 ibid., p. 173. 

43 ibid., p. 213. 

44 E. Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household (Chapel Hill,NC: University 
of North Carolina Press, 1988), p. 329. 

45 ibid., p. 324. 

46 Morrison, Beloved, Pt n, pp. 200-17. 

47 ibid., p. 213. 

48 W. Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism 
(London: NLB, 1973), p. 171. 


1 See C. Taylor, 'Eurocentrics vs new thought at Edinburgh', Framework, 34 
(1987), for an illustration of this style of argument. See particularly footnote 
1 (p. 148) for an exposition of his use of 'larceny' ('the judicious distortion of 
African truths to fit western prejudices'). 

2 G. C. Spivak, In Other Worlds (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 166-7. 

3 See T. H. Gabriel, 'Teaching Third World cinema' and Julianne Burton, 'The 
politics of aesthetic distance - Sao Bernando', both in Screen, vol. 24, no. 2 
(March-April 1983), and A. Rajadhyaksha, 'Neo-traditionalism: film as popu- 
lar art in India', Framework, 32/33 (1986). 

4 S. Hall, 'Blue election, election blues', Marxism Today (July 1987), pp. 30-5. 

5 M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Tavistock, 1972), pp. 102-5. 

6 J. S. Mill, 'On Liberty', in Utilitarianism, Liberty, Representative Government 
(London: Dent & Sons, 1972), pp. 93-4. 

7 For a significant elaboration of a similar argument see E. Laclau and C. 
Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (London: Verso, 1985), ch. 3. 

8 For a philosophical underpinning of some of the concepts I am proposing 



here see R. Gasch6, The Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1986), especially ch. 6: 

The Otherness of unconditional heterology does not have the purity of 
principles. It is concerned with the principles' irreducible impurity, with 
the difference that divides them in themselves against themselves. For 
this reason it is an impure heterology. But it is also an impure heterology 
because the medium of Otherness - more or less than negativity - is also 
a mixed milieu, precisely because the negative no longer dominates it. 

9 Hall, 'Blue election', p. 33. 

10 I owe this point to Martin Thorn. 

11 Laclau and Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, ch. 3. 

12 P. Gilroy, There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack (London: Hutchinson, 1987), 
p. 214. 

13 F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967 [1961] ), 
p. 168. 

14 J.-P. Sartre, Politics and Literature (London: Calder & Boyars, 1973 [1948] ), 
pp. 16-17. 

15 Rev. A. Duff, India and India Missions: Including Sketches of the Gigantic System 
of Hinduism etc. (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1839; London: John Hunter, 
1839), p. 560. 

16 Fanon, Wretched of the Earth, pp. 182-3. 

17 B. Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (London: Fontana, 1985), ch. 9. 

18 M. Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 
1976), p. 211. 

19 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), ch. 2. 

20 W. Harris, Tradition, the Writer and Society (London: New Beacon, 1973), 
pp. 60-3. 


1 F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, Introduction by H. K. Bhabha (London: 
Pluto, 1986), p. 231 (my emphasis). 

2 ibid., p. 218. 

3 F. Fanon, Toward the African Revolution (Harmondsworth: Pelican, 1967), p. 63. 

4 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, pp. 157-8. 

5 W. Benjamin, Theses on the philosophy of history', in his Illuminations (New 
York: Schocken Books, 1968), p. 257. 

6 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, pp. 110-12. 

7 ibid., p. 116. 

8 F. Fanon, 'Concerning violence', in his 77k Wretched of the Earth 
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969). 

9 ibid. 

10 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 16. 

11 J. Rose, The imaginary', in Colin MacCabe (ed.) The Talking Cure (London: 
Macmillan, 1981). 

12 Fanon, 'Concerning violence', p. 30. 

13 A. Jussawalla, Missing Person (Clearing House, 1976), pp. 14-29. 

14 M. Jin, 'Strangers on a Hostile Landscape', in R. Cobham and M. Collins (eds) 
Watchers and Seekers (London: The Women's Press, 1987), pp. 126-7. 

15 E. Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), pp. 26-7. 



16 R. Barthes, 'The imagination of the sign', in his Critical Essays (Evanston, 111.: 
Northwestern University Press, 1972), pp. 206-7. 

17 J. Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London: Fontana, 1969), 
pp. 212-13. 

18 Barthes, 'Imagination of the sign', p. 207. 

19 R. Rorty, 'Mirroring', in his Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Oxford: 
Blackwell, 1980), pp. 162^3. 

20 Barthes, 'Imagination of the sign', p. 207. 

21 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 112. 

22 ibid. 

23 J. Lacan, 'Seminar of 21 January 1975', in J. Mitchell and J. Rose (eds) Feminine 
Sexuality (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), p. 164. 

24 Barthes, 'Imagination of the sign', pp. 209-10. 

25 J. Lacan, 'Alienation', in his The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis 
(London: The Hogarth Press, 1977), p. 206. 

26 Derrida, "The double session', in his Dissemination, B. Johnson (trans.) 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 212. 

27 Derrida, 'The double session', pp. 212-13. 

28 J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, G. C. Spivak (trans.) (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hop- 
kins University Press, 1976), p. 145. 

29 Lacan, 'Alienation', p. 207. 

30 M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, A. H. Sheridan (trans.) (London: 
Tavistock, 1972), p. 111. 

31 J.-F. Lyotard and J.-L. Thebaud, Just Gaming, W. Godzich (trans.) (Minneapolis: 
University of Minnesota Press, 1985), pp. 34 and 39. 

32 Lacan, 'Alienation', p. 88. 

33 See Chapters 1 and 6. 

34 C. Geertz, 'Native's point of view: anthropological understanding', in his 
Local Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1983), p. 70. 

35 J. Derrida, Writing and Difference, Alan Bass (trans.) (Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press, 1982), p. 282. 

36 Jussawalla, Missing Person, p. 15. 

37 A. Showstack Sassoon, Approaches to Gramsci (London: Writers and Readers, 
1982), p. 16. 

38 Barthes, 'Imagination of the sign', p. 246. 

39 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 161. 

40 ibid., pp. 231-2. 

41 ibid. 

42 ibid., p. 221. 

43 A. Reich. 

44 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 150. 

45 ibid., p. 45. 

46 ibid., p. 231. 

47 J. Lacan, 77k Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Alan Sheridan 
(trans.) (New York: Norton, 1981), p. 107. 

48 T. F. Eagleton, 'The politics of subjectivity', in L. Appignanesi (ed.) Identity, 
ICA Documents 6 (London: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1988). 




1 J. Derrida, 'Structure, sign and play in the discourse of the human sciences', 
in his Writing and Difference, Alan Bass (trans.) (Chicago: Chicago University 
Press, 1978), p. 284. 

2 S. Feuchtwang, 'Socialist, feminist and anti-racist struggles', mff, no. 4 (1980), 
p. 41. 

3 S. Heath, 'Film and system, terms of analysis', Part 11, Screen, vol. 16, no. 2 
(summer 1975), p. 93. 

4 Screen, vol. 24, no. 2 (January/ February 1983). 

5 For instance, having decentred the sign, Barthes finds Japan immediately 
insightful and visible and extends the empire of empty signs universally. 
Japan can only be the Anti-West: 

in the ideal Japanese house, devoid or nearly so of furniture, there is 
no place which in any way designates property; no seat, no bed, no 
table provides a point from which the body may constitute itself as 
subject (or master) of a space. The very concept of centre is rejected 
(burning frustration for Western man everywhere provided with his 
armchair and his bed, the owner of a domestic position). (R. Barthes, 
L'Empire des Signes, Noel Burch (trans.) To the Distant Observer (London: 
Scolar Press, 1979), pp. 13-14. 

For a reading of Kristeva relevant to my argument, see G. Spivak, Trench 
feminism in an international frame', Yale French Studies, no. 62 (1981), 
pp. 154-84. 

6 This concept is further developed in Chapter 6, pp. 108-17. 

7 E. Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), p. 72; emphasis 

8 ibid., p. 206. 

9 ibid., p. 273. 

10 ibid., pp. 58-9. 

11 M. Foucault, "The confession of the flesh', in his Power/Knowledge (Brighton: 
Harvester Press, 1980), p. 196. 

12 ibid., p. 195. 

13 See S. Freud, 'Fetishism' (1927) in On Sexuality, vol. VII, Pelican Freud Library 
(Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981), p. 345f f; C. Metz, Psychoanalysis and 
Cinema: the Imaginary Signifier (London: Macmillan, 1982), pp. 67-78. See also 
S. Neale, "The same old story: stereotypes and differences', Screen Education, 
nos 32-3 (Autumn-Winter 1979-80), pp. 33-7. 

14 F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (London: Pluto Press, 1991); "The Fact of 
Blackness', pp. 109-40. 

15 ibid., see pp. 117, 127. 

16 ibid., pp. 111-14. 

17 Metz, Psychoanalysis and Cinema, pp. 59-60. 

18 ibid., pp. 62-3. 

19 For the best account of Lacan's concept of the Imaginary see J. Rose, "The 
imaginary', in Colin MacCabe (ed.) The Talking Cure (London: Macmillan, 

20 F. Fanon, 'Racism and culture', in his Toward the African Revolution, H. Cheva- 
lier (trans.) (London: Pelican, 1970), p. 44. 

21 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 114. 

22 Freud, 'Fetishism', p. 357. 

23 F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1969). 



24 P. Abbot, 'Authority', Screen, vol. 20, no. 2 (Summer 1979), pp. 15-16. 

25 ibid., p. 16. 

26 ibid. 

27 Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks, p. 112. 

28 Metz, Psychoanalysis and Cinema, p. 70. 

29 J. Laplanche and J. B. Pontalis, 'Phantasy (or fantasy)', in their The Language 
of Psychoanalysis (London: Hogarth Press, 1980), p. 318. 

30 Fanon, Black Skins, White Masks, p. 80. 

31 See K. Abraham, Transformations of scopophiiia', in his Selected Papers in 
Psychoanalysis (London: Hogarth Press, 1978). 

32 Fanon, 'Racism and culture, p. 44. 


1 J. Lacan, 'The line and the light', in his The Four Fundamental Concepts of 
Psychoanalysis, Alan Sheridan (trans.) (London: The Hogarth Press and the 
Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977), p. 99. 

2 Cited in E. Stokes, The Political Ideas of English Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford 
University Press, I960), pp. 17-18. 

3 E. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), p. 240. 

4 S. Weber, "The sideshow, or: remarks on a canny moment', Modern Language 
Notes, vol 88, no. 6 (1973), p. 112. 

5 C. Grant, 'Observations on the state of society among the Asiatic subjects 
of Great Britain', Sessional Papers of the East India Company, vol. X, no. 282 

6 ibid., ch. 4, p. 104. 

7 T. B. Macaulay, 'Minute on education', in W. Theodore de Bary (ed.) Sources 
of Indian Tradition, voL II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 49. 

8 Mr Thomason's communication to the Church Missionary Society, 5 Septem- 
ber 1819, in The Missionary Register, 1821, pp. 54-5. 

9 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), p. 88. 

10 ibid, pp. 88-9. 

11 J. Conrad, Nostromo (London: Penguin, 1979), p. 161. 

12 V. S. Naipual, The Mimic Men (London: Penguin, 1967), p. 146. 

13 F. Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (London: Paladin, 1970), p. 109. 

14 A. Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972), 
p. 21. 

15 M. Foucault, 'Nietzche, genealogy, history', in his Language, Counter-Memory, 
Practice, D. F. Bouchard and S. Simon (trans.) (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 
1977), p. 153. 

16 E. Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 
1959), p. xi. 

17 S. Freud, The unconscious' (1915), SE, XIV, pp. 190-1. 

18 Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, p. 103. 

19 E. Long, A History of Jamaica, 1774, vol. II, p. 353. 

20 E. Said, 'The Text, the world, the critic', in J. V. Harari (ed.) Textual Strategies 
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1979), p. 184. 

21 F. Fanon, 'Racism and culture', in his Toward the African Revolution, H. Cheva- 
lier (trans.) (London: Pelican, 1967), p. 44. 

22 M. Foucault, The Order of Things (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971), part II, 
ch. 9. 

23 Long, History of Jamaica, p. 364. 



24 The Missionary Register, May 1817, p. 186. 


1 S. Freud, 'Some neurotic mechanisms in jealousy, paranoia and homo- 
sexuality' (1922), in Standard Edition XVTH, J. Strachey (ed.) (London: The 
Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1953-1974), p. 226. 

2 J. Derrida, The violence of the letter', in his Of Grammatology, G. C. Spivak 
(trans.) (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), p. 134. 

3 Parliamentary Papers, 1852-1853, XXX, testimony of John Stuart Mill to a Select 
Committee of the House of Lords, 21 June 1852, p. 301. 

4 I am using speech in the Derridean sense as the expressive sign of the self- 
presence of voice, the disavowal of the differentiating signifier of writing. 

5 J. S. Mill, 'On Liberty', Utilitarianism, liberty, Representative Government, H. B. 
Acton (ed.) (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1972), p. 99. 

6 ibid., p. 102. 

7 ibid., p. 113. 

8 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), pp. 132-3. 

9 Mill, 'On Liberty', p. 97. 

10 Mill, Parliamentary Papers, 1852-1853, p. 310. 

11 Mill, quoted in G. D. Bearce, British Attitudes Towards India 1 784-1858 (London: 
Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 280. 

12 T. B. Macaulay, 'Warren Hastings', Critical and Historical Essays, vol. HI 
(London: Methuen, 1903), pp. 85-6. 

13 ibid, p. 86. 

14 W. Benjamin/Theses on the philosophy of history', in his Illuminations, ed. 
with an introduction by Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 
p. 263. 

15 Mill, 'On Liberty', p. 382-3. 

16 H. Merivale, Introduction to a Course of Lectures on Colonization and Colonies 
(London, 1839), pp. 18-25. 

17 For a further elaboration of this concept, see Chapter 6. 

18 See L. Althusser, 'Montesquieu: politics and history', in his Montesquieu, Rous- 
seau, Marx, Ben Brewster (trans.) (London: Verso, 1982), ch. 4. 

19 J. Derrida, 'Living on: border lines', in J. Derrida, P. de Man, J. Hillis Miller, 
H. Bloom and G. Hartman (eds) Deconstruction and Criticism (London: Rout- 
ledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 87 

20 The Missionary Register, Church Missionary Society, March 1819, pp. 159-60. 

21 ibid., September 1818, pp. 374-5. 

22 N. B. Halhed, 'translator's preface', in P. J. Marshall (ed.) The British Discovery 
of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century (London: Cambridge University Press), 
1970, pp. 166-7. 

23 77k Compact Edition of the OED, vol. n, p. 215. 

24 S. Freud, 'Psychoanalytic notes on an autobiographical account of a case of 
paranoia (Schreber)', Pelican Freud Library, vol. IX, pp. 200-3; see also J. 
Forrester, Language and the Origins of Psychoanalysis (London: Macmillan, 1980), 
pp. 154-7. 

25 R Waelder, "The structure of paranoid ideas', International Journal of Psycho- 
analysis, vol 32 (1951). 

26 J. F. Stephen, 'Foundations of the government of India', The Nineteenth Century, 
no. LXXX (October 1883), pp. 557-8. 

27 Rev. A. Duff, India and India Missions (London: John Hunter, 1839), pp. 323-4. 



1 R. Southey, Letters from England ed. with intra by J. Simmons (Cresset Press, 
London, 1952). 

2 77k Missionary Register, Church Missionary Society, London, January 1818, 
pp. 18-19; all further references to this work, abbreviated MR, will be included 
in the text, with dates and page numbers in parentheses. 

3 J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness, Paul O'Prey (ed.) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 
1983), pp. 71, 72. 

4 V. S. Naipaul, 'Conrad's darkness', in his The Return of Eva Peron 
(Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 233. 

5 'Overall effect of the dream- work: the latent thoughts are transformed into a 
manifest formation in which they are not easily recognizable. They are not 
only transposed, as it were, into another key, but they are also distorted in such 
a fashion that only an effort of interpretation can reconstitute them' (J. Laplanche 
and J. B. Pontalis, The Language of Psycho-analysis, D. Nicholson-Smith (trans.) 
(London: The Hogarth Press, 1980), p. 124; my emphasis). See also S. Weber's 
excellent chapter 'Metapsychology set apart', in his The Legend of Freud 
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), pp. 32-60. 

6 J. Derrida, Dissemination, Barbara Johnson (trans.) (Chicago: Chicago Univer- 
sity Press, 1981), pp. 189-90; all further references to this work, abbreviated 
D, will be included in the text. 

7 Conrad, Heart of Darkness, p. 45. 

8 F. Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations, R. J. Hollingdale (trans.) (Cambridge: Cam- 
bridge University Press, 1983), p. 71. 

9 T. B. Macaulay, 'Minute on education', quoted in E. H. Cuts, The background 
of Macaulay's Minute', American Historical Review, vol. 58 (July 1953), p. 839. 

10 See I. Watt, Conrad in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley and Los Angeles: 
University of California Press, 1979), ch. 4, part i. 

11 See Conrad, Tradition', in his Notes on Life and Letters (London: J. M. Dent, 
1925), pp. 194-201. 

12 See. J. Barrell's excellent chapter, The language properly so-called: the author- 
ity of common usage', in his English Literature in History, 1730-1780: An Equal 
Wide Survey (London: Hutchinson, 1983), pp. 110-75. 

13 Conrad, quoted in Naipaul, 'Conrad's darkness', p. 236. 

14 See Chapter 3. 

15 M. Foucault, 'The confession of the flesh', in his Power/Knowledge: Selected 
Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, Colin Gordon (ed), Gordon et al. 
(trans) (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), p. 204. 

16 See. S. Freud, 'Beyond the pleasure principle', (1920), J. Strachey (trans, and 
ed.) Standard Edition, XVm (London: The Hogarth Press, 1974), pp. 18-25. 

17 Foucault, Truth and power', Power/Knowledge, p. 132. 

18 Foucault, "The eye of power', Power/Knowledge, p. 154; and see pp. 152-6. 

19 ibid., p. 155. 

20 See S. Lukes, 'Power and authority,' in T. Bottomore and R. Nisbet (eds) A 
History of Sociological Analysis (New York: Basic Books, 1978), pp. 633-76. 

21 T. Nairn, The Break-Up of Britain: Crisis and Neo-Nationalism (London: Verso, 
1981), p. 265. 

22 F. Fanon, Toward the African Revolution, H. Chevalier (trans.) (Harmondsworth: 
Pelican, 1967), p. 44. 

23 See Freud, 'An outline of psychoanalysis' (1940), J. Strachey (trans, and ed.), 
SE, XXm (London: The Hogarth Press, 1973), pp. 59-61. 

24 J. Locke, 'The second treatise of government', in his Two Treatises of Government 



(New York, 1965), p. 343, para. 59; Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the 
Laws, T. Nugent (trans.) (New York: Hafher, 1949), p. 57; C. Grant, 'Obser- 
vations on u^e state of society among the Asiatic subjects of Great Britain', 
Sessional Papers of the East India Company, vol. X, no. 282 (1812-13), p. 70; E. 
Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 
p. 85. 

25 F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, C. Farrington (trans.) (Harmondsworth: 
Penguin, 1969), p. 42. 

26 MR, May 1916, pp. 181-2. 

27 William Paley, quoted in D. L. LeMahieu, 77k Mind of William Paley: A Philo- 
sopher and His Age (Lincoln, Nebr: Grove Press, 1976), p. 97. 

28 M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge, A. M. Sheridan (trans.) (London: 
Tavistock, 1972), p. 91; my emphasis. 

29 V. N. Smirnoff, The fetishistic transaction', in S. Levobici and D. Widlocher 
(eds) Psychoanalysis in France (New York: International University Press, 1980), 
p. 307. 

30 See Fanon, "The Negro and psychopathology', in his Black Skin, White Masifcs, 
C. Lam Markmann (trans.) (New York, 1967). 

31 J. Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, J.- A. Miller (ed.), A. 
Sheridan (trans.) (New York: Norton, 1978), p. 99. 


1 E. M. Forster, A Passage to India (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979), p. 135. 

2 J. Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis (Harmondsworth: 
Penguin, 1979), p. 250. 

3 A. Lyall; Carlyle, Essays; R. Kipling, "The burial', quoted in E. Stokes, 77k 
Political Ideas of English Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1960), 
p. 28. 1 am indebted to Stokes's suggestive remarks on the value of 'inarticu- 
lateness' attributed to the mission of colonial enterprise. 

4 W. Benjamin, Illuminations, H. Zonh (trans.) (London: Cape, 1970), pp. 98-101. 

5 J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness, R. Kimbrough (ed.) (New York: W. W. Norton & 
Co., 1963), p. 28. 

6 J. Conrad, Nostromo (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979), p. 345. 

7 Forster, Passage to India, p. 145. 

8 Stokes, Political Ideas, p. 29. 

9 Conrad, Heart of Darkness, p. 186. 

10 Forster, Passage to India, p. 135. 

11 Lacan, TTie Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, p. 214. 

12 B. Williams, Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy (London: Fontana, 1985). 

13 Forster, Passage to India, p. 144. 

14 This is a collage of words, phrases, statements made in/around the entry to 
the Marabar caves. They represent a fictional re-enactment of that crucial 
moment as an act of memory. 

15 J. Derrida, Dissemination, B. Johnson (trans.) (Chicago: Chicago University 
Press, 1981), pp. 212-13. 

16 J. Derrida, 'The violence of the letter', in his Of Grammatology, G. C. Spivak 
(trans.) (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 121. 

17 R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1979), p. 318. 

18 E. Gellner, Relativism and the Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1985), p. 90. 



19 J. Boon, 'Further operations of "culture" in anthropology: a synthesis of and 
for debate', Social Science Quarterly, vol. 52, pp. 221-52. 

20 M. Sahlins, Culture and Practical Reason (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 

21 Rev. A. Duff, India and India Missions: Including Sketches of the Gigantic System 
of Hinduism etc. (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1839), p. 211. 

22 Sir H. Maine, "The Effects of Observation of India on Modem European 
Thought' (Cambridge: The Rede Lecture, 1875). 

23 J. Fitzjames Stephen, 'The foundations of the government of India', Nineteenth 
Century, vol. 14 (October 1883), pp. 551 ff. 

24 J. W. Burrow, Evolution and Society: A Study in Victorian Social Theory 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), p. 159. 

25 M. Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Tavistock, 1972), p. 92. 

26 ibid., p. 111. 

27 F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 29. 

28 ibid., p.41. 

29 S. Freud, 'Fetishism' in On Sexuality (Harmondsworth: Pelican Freud Library, 
1977, vol. 7), p. 352; my italics. 

30 J. S. Mill, 'On representative government,' in H. B. Acton (ed.), Utilitarianism, 
Liberty, Representative Government (London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1972). 

31 Duff, India and India Missions, p. 564. 

32 ibid., p. 563. 

33 ibid., p. 323. 

34 ibid., p. 225. 

35 ibid. 

36 J. Derrida, 'Des tours de Babel', Difference in Translation, ed. J. F. Graham (ed.) 
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 174. 

37 S. Freud, "The "uncanny" ', in Art and Literature (Harmondsworth: Pelican 
Freud Library, vol. 14), pp. 335-76. 

38 E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Sandman. 

39 N. B. Halhed (trans, and ed.), A Code of Gentoo Laws, or Ordinations of the 
Pundits (London, 1776), pp. li-lii. 

40 K. Abraham, Selected Papers on Psychoanalysis (London: Kamac, 1988), p. 487. 


1 In memory of Paul Moritz Strimpel (1914-87): Pforzheim-Paris-Zurich- 

2 Quoted in E. Said, After the Last Sky (London: Faber, 1986). 

3 I am thinking of Eric Hobsbawm's great history of the 'long nineteenth 
century', particularly The Age of Capital 1848-1875 (London: Weidenfeld & 
Nicolson, 1975) and The Age of Empire 1875-1914 (London: Weidenfeld & Nic- 
olson, 1987). See especially some of the suggestive ideas on the nation and 
migration in the latter volume, ch. 6. 

4 E. Said, The World, The Text and The Critic (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univer- 
sity Press, 1983), p. 39. 

5 F. Jameson, 'Third World literature in the era of multinational capitalism', 
Social Text (Fall 1986), p. 69 and passim. 

Tfr-J. Kristeva, 'A new type of intellectual: the dissident', in T. Moi (ed.) The 
.-.» Kristeva Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 298. 
7 E. Said, 'Opponents, audiences, constituencies and community', in H. Foster 
(ed.) Postmodern Culture (London: Pluto, 1983), p. 145. 



8 B. Anderson, 'Narrating the nation;, The Times Literary Supplement, 

9 P. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse 
(London: Zed, 1986), p. 17. 

10 E. Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1983), p. 56. 

11 ibid., p. 38. 

12 L. Althusser, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx (London: Verso, 1972), p. 78. 

13 M. Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays, C. Emerson and M. Holquist 
(eds), V. W. McGee (trans.) (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1986), 
p. 31. 

14 ibid., p. 34. 

15 ibid., p. 36 and passim. 

16 ibid., pp. 47-9. 

17 S. Freud, "The "uncanny" ', Standard Edition, XVII, J. Strachey (ed.) (London: 
The Hogarth Press, 1974), p. 234. See also pp. 236, 247. 

18 J. Barrell, English Literature in History, 1730-1780 (London: Hutchinson, 1983). 

19 H. A. Baker, Jr, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: Chicago Uni- 
versity Press, 1987), esp. chs 8-9. 

20 Barrell, English Literature, p. 78. 

21 ibid., p. 203. 

22 Baker, Modernism, p. 77. 

23 R. Price, Maroon Societies, quoted in Baker, Modernism, p. 77. 

24 C. Lefort, The Political Forms of Modern Society (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1986), pp. 212-14; my emphasis. 

25 A. Giddens, The Nation State and Violence (Cambridge: Polity, 1985), p. 216. 

26 N. Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism (London: Verso, 1980), p. 113. 

27 R. Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980), p. 43. 
I must thank Prof. David Lloyd of the University of California, Berkeley, for 
reminding me of Williams's important concept. 

28 E. Said, 'Representing the colonized', Critical Inquiry, vol. 15, no. 2 (winter 
1989), p. 225. 

29 S. Freud, 'Civilization and its discontents', Standard Edition (London: The 
Hogarth Press, 1961), p. 114. 

30 ibid. 

31 J.-F. Lyotard and J.-L. Thebaud, Just Gaming, W. Godzich (trans.) (Manchester: 
Manchester University Press, 1985), p. 41. 

32 C. Levi-Strauss, Introduction to the Work of Marcel Mauss, F. Baker (trans.) 
(London: Routledge, 1987). Mark Cousins pointed me in the direction of this 
remarkable text. See his review in New Formation, no. 7 (spring 1989). What 
follows is an account of Levi-Strauss's argument to be found in section 11 of 
the book, pp. 21-44. 

33 M. Foucault, Technologies of the Self, H. Gutman et al. (eds) (London: Tavistock, 

34 ibid., pp. 151-4. I have abbreviated the argument for my convenience. 

35 L. Althusser, Reading Capital (London: New Left Books, 1972), pp. 122-32. I 
have, for convenience, produced a composite quotation from Althusser 's 
various descriptions of the ideological effects of historicism. 

36 Foucault, Technologies, pp. 162^3. 

37 F. Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Harmonsdworth: Penguin, 1969). My 
quotations and references come from pp. 174-90. 

38 J.-F. Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition, G. Bennington and B. Massumi (trans.) 
(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), p. 22. 

39 J. Kristeva, 'Women's time', in T. Moi (ed.) The Kristeva Reader (Oxford: 



Black well, 1986), pp. 187-213. This passage was written in response to the 
insistent questioning of Nandini and Praminda in Prof. Tshome Gabriel's 
seminar on 'syncretic cultures' at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

40 Anderson, 'Narrating the nation', p. 35. 

41 J. Derrida, Of Grammatology, G. C. Spivak (trans.) (Baltimore, Md: Johns Hop- 
kins University Press, 1976), pp. 144-5. Quoted in R. Gasche, 77k Tain of the 
Mirror (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 208. 

42 Derrida, Of Grammatology, p. 145. 

43 Gasche, Tain of the Mirror, p. 211. 

44 Kristeva, 'Women's time', p. 210. 1 have also referred here to an argument to 
be found on p. 296. 

45 All quotations are from the shooting script of Handsworth Songs, generously 
provided by the Black Audio and Film Collective. 

46 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of 
Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), p. 30. 

47 ibid, p. 132. 

48 ibid. 

49 ibid. 

50 Levi-Strauss, Work of Marcel Mauss, p. 58. 

51 E. Renan, 'What is a nation?', in H. K. Bhabha (ed.) Nation and Narration 
(London and New York: Routledge, 1990), p. 19. 

52 ibid., p. 11. 

53 Lefort, Political Forms, p. 303. 

54 W. Benjamin, "The storyteller', in Illuminations, H. Zohn (trans.) (London: 
Cape, 1970), p. 87. 

55 Levi-Strauss, Work of Marcel Mauss, p. 35. 

56 W. Benjamin, 'The task of the translator', Illuminations, H Zohn (trans.) 
(London: Cape, 1970), p. 75. 

57 ibid. For a most useful survey of the issue see Tejaswini Niranjana, History, 
Post-Structuralism and the Colonial Context: Siting Translation (Berkeley: Califor- 
nia University Press, 1992). 

58 N. Abraham and M. Torok, 'Introjection - Incorporation', in S. Lebovici and 
D. Widlocher (eds) Psychoanalysis in France (New York: International Univer- 
sity Press, 1980), p. 10. 

59 J. Berger, A Seventh Man (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1975). I have composed 
this passage from quotations that are scattered through the text. 

60 ibid., p. 216. 

61 S. Freud, 'Group psychology and the analysis of the ego', Standard Edition, 
XVm (London: The Hogarth Press, 1961), p. 119. 

62 S. Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (New York: viking, 1988), p. 343. This is a 
condensed version of this quotation. 

63 ibid., p. 130. 

64 ibid., p. 145. 

65 ibid., p. 320. 

66 ibid., p. 353. 

67 ibid., p. 354. I have slightly altered the presentation of this passage to fit in 
with the sequence of my argument. 

68 Timothy Bahti and Andrew Benjamin have translated this much-discussed 
passage for me. What I want to emphasize is a form of the articulation of 
cultural difference that Paul de Man clarifies in his reading of Walter Benjam- 
in's complex image of amphora. 

[Benjamin] is not saying that the fragments constitute a totality, he 



says that fragments are fragments, and that they remain essentially 
fragmentary. They follow each other metonymically, and they never 
constitute a totality. (P. de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Manchester: 
Manchester University Press, 1986), p. 91). 


1 J. Derrida, 'My chances/mes chances', in J. H. Smith and W. Kerrigan (eds) 
Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins 
University Press, 1984), p. 8. 

2 J. Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, F. G. 
Lawrence (trans.) (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1987), p. 348. 

3 F. Jameson, Foreword to R. Retamar, Caliban and Other Essays, trans. E. Baker 
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,' 1989), pp. vii-xii. 

4 E. Said, "Third World intellectuals and metropolitan culture', Raritan, vol. 9, 
no. 3 (1990), p. 49. 

5 F. Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: 
Cornell University Press, 1981), p. 266. 

6 C. West, 'Interview with Cornel West', in A. Ross (ed.) Univeral Abandon 
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1988), pp. 280-1. 

7 S. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal (London: Verso, 1988), p. 273. 

8 ibid., pp. 9-10. 

9 C. Taylor, Philosophy and the Human Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1985), p. 145. 

10 ibid., p.151 (my emphasis). 

11 H. Spillers, 'Changing the letter', in D. E. McDowell and A. Rampersad (eds) 
Slavery and the Literary Imagination (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 
1989), p. 29. 

12 D. E. McDowell, 'Negotiations between tenses: witnessing slavery after free- 
dom - Dessa Rose', in McDowell and Rampersad, Slavery, p. 147. 

13 P. Gilroy, There Ain't No Black in the Union Jack (London: Hutchinson, 1987), 
ch. 5. 

14 H. A. Baker, Jr, Hybridity, the Rap Race, and the Pedagogy of the 1990s (New 
York: Meridian, 1990). 

15 H. L. Gates, Jr, Reading Black, Reading Feminist: A Critical Anthobgy (New York: 
NAL, 1990), p. 8. 

16 R Gasche, The Tain of the Mirror (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 
1986), p. 210. 

17 I wrote this section in response to Stephen Greenblatt's musing question, put 
in a bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts: 'What happens in that partial, passing 
moment in-between the chain of signifiers?' As it turns out, Cambridge is not 
that far from Tangiers. 

18 R. Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text, R. Miller (trans.) (New York: Hill, 1975), 
p. 49 (my emphasis). 

19 ibid., p. 50. 

20 ibid., pp. 66-7. 

21 ibid., p. 57. 

22 ibid., p. 49. 

23 Derrida, 'My chances', p. 25. 

24 ibid., p. 10. 

25 T. Eagleton, Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso, 1991), p. 38. 



26 J. Forrester, The Seductions of Psychoanalysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1990), pp. 207-10. 

27 J. Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, A. Bass (trans.) 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 321. 

28 G. C. Spivak, 'Postcoloniality and value', in P. Collier and H. Gaya-Ryan 
(eds), Literary Theory Today (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), pp. 225, 227, 228. 

29 In an interview, Spivak also talks of the 'irreducible lag-effect' that is not 

what is behind the sign system or after it, which the sign system can't 
keep up with as the 'real thing' - but you must take into account that 
what you are tapping in terms of cultural self-representation in order 
to mobilize, or what you are noticing the other side as tapping, also in 
order to mobilize, must also work with the lag-effect, so that the real 
task of the political activist is persistently to undo the lag-effect. (Quoted 
in S. Harasym (ed.) The Postcolonial Critic (New York: Routledge: 1990), 
p. 125) 

I have argued for a related temporality of political intervention in 'The com- 
mitment to theory', New Formations, vol. 5 (summer 1988), pp. 5-23. 

30 Barthes, Pleasure of the Text, pp. 66-7., Mine is a tendentious exploration and 
reconstitution of Barthes's concept, often read against the grain of Barthes's 
celebratory, situationist ditoumement. It is not an exposition, as I have made 
clear repeatedly throughout the chapter. 

31 S. Zizek, The Sublime of Object of Ideology (Lincoln, Nebr.: University of 
Nebraska Press, 1986), pp. 104-11. 

32 J. Lacan, Ecrits, A Sheridan (trans.) (London: Tavistock, 1977), p. 173. 

33 Zizek, Sublime Object, p. 109. 

34 Barthes, Pleasure of the Text, pp. 62, 67 (my emphasis). 

35 R. Guha, 'Dominance without hegemony and its historiography', in Guha 
(ed.) Subaltern Studies, vol. 6 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989), 
pp. 210-309. 

36 ibid., p. 230. 

37 R. Guha, "The prose of counter-insurgency', in Guha (ed.) Subaltern Studies, 
vol. 2 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 39. 

38 ibid., p. 40. 

39 ibid., p. 39. 

40 M. M. Bakhtin, Speech, Genres, and Other Late Essays, C. Emerson and M. 
Holquist (eds), V. W. McGee (trans.) (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 
1986), pp. 90-5. 

41 ibid., p. 93. 

42 ibid., p. 94. 

43 ibid., p. 93. 

44 ibid. 

45 H. Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1958), 
p. 185. See also pp. 175-95. 

46 ibid., p. 185. 

47 ibid., p. 184. 

48 ibid., p. 186. 

49 ibid., p. 187. 

50 ibid., p. 180. 

51 ibid. 

52 J. Lacan, 'Where is speech? Where is language?', The Seminars of Jacques 



Lacan, 1954-55, J.-A. Miller (ed.), S. Tomaselli (trans.) (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1988), pp. 284-5. 

53 R Rorty, Contingent, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1989), pp. 92, 93. 

54 ibid., p. 63. 

55 ibid., p. 63, n. 21 

56 Guha, 'Dominance', p. 277. 

57 ibid, (my emphasis). 

58 V. Das, 'Subaltern as perspective', in R Guha (ed.) Subaltern Studies, vol. 6 
(New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 313. 

59 ibid., p. 316. 

60 ibid., p. 320. 

61 I have changed the order of Fanon's argument to give an efficient summary 
of it. 

62 F. Fanon, 'Spontaneity: its strength and its weakness', in his e Wretched of 
the Earth (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), pp. 117-18. 

63 M. Dean, 'Foucault's obsession with Western modernity', esis Eleven, vol. 
14(1986), p. 49. 

64 See G. C. Spivak, In Other Worlds: Essays in Cultural Politics (New York: 
Methuen, 1987), p. 209. 

65 M. Foucault, e Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, A. 
Sheridan (trans.) (London: Tavistock, 1970), p. 369. 

66 ibid. 

67 ibid., p. 371. 

68 ibid., p. 372. 

69 ibid., p. 377 (my emphasis). 

70 ibid. 

71 ibid., p. 369. 


1 J. Kaye and G. B. Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny of 1857-8, vol. 1 
(London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1888), p. 179. 

2 J. Lacan, 'Where is speech? Where is language?', e Seminars of Jacques Lacan, 
1954-55, in J. A. Miller (ed.), S. Tomaselli (trans.) (Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1988), pp. 284-5. 

3 T. Morrison, 'Unspeakable things unspoken', Michigan Quarterly Review, vol. 
28, no. 1 (winter 1989), pp. 11-12. 

4 T. Morrison, Beloved (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987), p. 4. 

5 Morrison, 'Unspeakable things unspoken', p. 31. 

6 ibid., p. 32. 

7 I am deeply indebted to Ranajit Guha's reading of the 'chapati' story in his 
classic account of rebel politics, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency (Delhi: 
Oxford University Press, 1983). See ch. 6, in particular pp. 239-46. Although 
my analysis of the event differs from his in ways that will become clearer as 
the argument pr eeds, his splendid reading produces an important frame- 
work for all successive readings. 

8 A. Nandy, Traditions, Tyranny and Utopias (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 
1987), pp. 47-8. 

9 Kaye and Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, vol. 1, pp. 416-20. 

10 E. Stokes, 'The context of the 1857 Rebellion', in his e Peasant and the Raj 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978); see p. 130 et passim. 



11 P. Mason, 'Fear and its causes', in A Matter of Honour: An Account of the Indian 
Army, Its Officers and Men (London: Cape, 1974), pp. 217-57. 

12 Kaye papers: Home Misc. 725, p. 421. 

13 E. Stokes, 77k Peasant Armed (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 92. 

14 Kaye and Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, vol. 5, p. 292. 

15 Kaye papers: Home Misc. 725, p. 415. 

16 Guha, Elementary Aspects of Peasant Insurgency, p. 225. 

17 ibid. 

18 W. Bion, Experience in Groups (London: Tavistock, 1983), p. 91. 

19 Kaye and Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, vol. 5, p. 341. 

20 Stokes, 77k Peasant Armed., p. 124. 

21 ibid., pp. 240-1. 

22 ibid., p. 66. 

23 ibid., p. 82. 

24 ibid., p. 50. 

25 Kaye papers: Home Misc. 725, pp. 399-407. 

26 ibid. 

27 ibid. 

28 F. W. Buckler, 'The oriental despot', quoted in B. S. Cohn, The Invention of 
Tradition, E. Hobsbawm and T Ranger (eds) (Cambridge: Cambridge Univer- 
sity Press, 1983), p. 168. 

29 Kaye and Malleson, History of the Indian Mutiny, vol. 1, p. 163. 

30 ibid., vol. 1, p. 164. 


1 Two re cent exa mple sJta_^EdMard Said' s mag istgriaLCu/ fKre and Im perialism 
(London: Chatto & Windus, 1993) Heart of Darkness is the pnvpl that imritps 
t he most comment and interpretation. It serves as a resource for many of the 
central arguments in t he book, jn Said's early discussions of the comple x 
a ddress and consolidation of the imperial idea as ideology, Heart of Darkness 
f eatures prominently. In the later," postcolomal perspectives that deal with 
r esistance and opposition . Said de monstrates the 'anxiety of influence' g ener- 
ate d by the n ovel on the anti-colonialist fictions of Ngugi wa Thiongo, 77ie 
Riper Between and Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North. In her fine 
study The Rhetoric of English India Sara Suleri gives a contrapuntal reading of 
Heart of Darkness and V. S. Naipaul's A Bend in the River. 

2 J. Conrad, Heart of Darkness and Other Tales, edited with an introduction by 
Cedric Watts (Oxford: World's Classics, 1990), p. 138. 

3 ibid., p. 140. 

4 T. Morrison, Playing in the Dark (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 
1991), passim. 

5 W. Harris, Tradition, the Writer, and Society (New Beacon: 1973), pp. 60-3. 

6 Conrad, Heart of Darkness, p. 252. 

7 C. Taylor, TTie Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge, 
Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989), p. 51. 

8 S. Weber, Return to Freud: Jacques Lacan's Dislocation of Psychoanalysis 
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 161. 

9 F. Jameson, Postmodernism Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham: 
Duke University Press, 1991). All citations are from the conclusion, 'Secondary 
elaborations' pp. 297-418, and will hereafter be referenced by page numbers. 

10 ibid., pp. 1-54. 



11 G. Gomez-Pena, The new world (border'. Third Text, vol. 21 (winter 1992-3), 
p. 74. 

12 I have described the narrative of such a temporality as a 'projective past' in 
a reading of Toni Morrison's Beloved. See Chapter 12. 

13 J. Forrester, 'Dead on Tune', in his The Seductions of Psychoanalysis: Freud, Lacan 
and Derrida (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 206. 

14 J. Butler, 'Decking out: performing identities', in Diana Fuss (ed.) Inside/Out, 
Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories (New York': Routledge, 1991), p. 17. 

15 For an argument that might be taken to counter this claim see F. Jameson, 
'Modernism and imperialism', in Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature, intro- 
duction by Seamus Deane, A Field Day Company Book (Minneapolis: Minne- 
sota University Press, 1990), p. 53. 

16 Although Jameson insists that anxiety and alienation form no part of post- 
modem phenomenology, I would argue that the appeal to affects of disjunc- 
tion, disorientation and doubling, particularly in the context of 'emergent' 
knowledges and practices cannot be envisaged without fear and trembling. I 
have also argued above, all too briefly, for anxiety as a pedagogical address 
- a theme that I will be extending in the book I am currently working on, 
The Measure of Dwelling. 

17 S. Rushdie, The Satanic Verses (London: Viking, 1988), p. 261. 

18 ibid., p. 246. 

19 W. Benjamin, Illuminations, H. Zohn (trans.) (New York: Shocken Books, 1968), 
p. 75. 

20 ibid., p. 75. 

21 Rushdie, Satanic Verses, p. 319. 

22 A. Madntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (London: Duckworth, 1988), 
p. 378. 

23 Sara Suleri, The Rhetoric of English India (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 
1992), p. 192. 

24 Y. Samad, 'Book burning and race relations: political mobilisation of Bradford Mus- 
lims', New Community, vol. 18, no. 4 (1991), pp. 507-19. My discussion in this 
paragraph is a paraphrase of Samad's argument and research. 

25 Rushdie, Satanic Verses, p. 272. 

26 ibid., p. 288. 

27 See R. Gasche's brilliant essay on Benjamin's theory of language, 'The satur- 
nine vision and the question of difference: Reflections on Walter Benjamin's 
theory of language', Studies in 20th Century Literature vol. n, no. 1, Fall 1986. 

28 Benjamin, Illuminations, p. 263. 

29 R. Pannwitz, in Benjamin, Illuminations, p. 80. 

30 Gasche, 'The saturnine vision', p. 92. 

31 It is this disjunctive form of cultural interaction that David Lloyd describes 
as 'refractive, non-equivalent, translation', in his reading of the emergence of 
the 'minor' Irish national canon. See D. Lloyd Nationalism and Minor Literature 
(Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1987), pp. 110-11. 

32 P. de Man, The Resistance to Theory (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 
1986), p. 92. 

33 Rushdie, Satanic Verses, p. 288. 

34 ibid., pp. 291-3. 

35 ibid., p. 354. 

36 See G. Sahgal, 'Fundamentalism and the multiculturalist fallacy', in Against 
the Grain: A Celebration of Survival and Struggle (Middlesex: Southall Black 
Sisters, 1990). 



37 Women Against Fundamentalism Newsletter, no. 4. 

38 Jameson, Postmodernism, p. 357. 

39 A. Janmohamed and D. Lloyd (eds), The Nature and Context of Minority Dis- 
course (New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 8. 

40 ibid., p. 10. 

41 C. West, 'Race and social theory', in M. Davis et al. (eds), 77k Year Left 2: 
Toward a Rainbow Socialism (London: Verso, 1987), pp. 85-90. 

42 P. Chatterjee, 'A response to Taylor's "Modes of civil society",' Public Culture, 
Fall 1990 (Princeton University Press), p. 130. 

43 ibid., p. 130. 

44 ibid., p. 127. 

45 ibid., p. 131. 

46 D. Walcott, 'Names', in his Collected Poems 1948-1984 (London: Faber, 1992), 
pp. 305-8. 

47 R. Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University 
Press, 1979). 

48 See J. Habermas, 77k Philosophical Discourse of Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 
1990), for a lengthy elaboration of this point. 

49 W. Benjamin, 'Theses on the philosophy of history', in his Illuminations ed. 
with intro. by Hannah Arendt, trans. H. Zohn (London: Jonathan Cape, 1970), 
p. 264. 

50 D. Walcott, 'Sainte Lucie', in his Collected Poems 1948-1984, p. 310. 

51 R. Rorty, Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press, 1989), pp. 190-1. 

52 ibid., p. 314. 


1 All citations from Fanon in the following pages come from "The fact of 
blackness', in Black Skin, White Masks, Foreword by H. Bhabha (London: Pluto, 
1986), pp. 109-40. 

2 W. E. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Signet Classics, 1982), p. 275. 

3 'A conversation with Fredric Jameson', in A. Ross (ed.) Universal Abandon: 
The Politics of Postmodernism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1988), 
p. 17. 

4 See my reading of Renan in Chapter 8, 'DissemiNation'. 

5 Each of these writers has addressed the problem of modernity in a number 
of works so that selection becomes invidious. However, some of the most 
directly relevant are the following: J. Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of 
Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990), esp. chs 11 and 12; M. Foucault, 
77ie History of Sexuality. Volume One: An Introduction (London: Allen Lane, 
1979); see also his "The art of telling the truth', in L. D. Kritzman (ed.) Politics, 
Philosophy and Culture (New York: Routledge, 1990); J.-F. Lyotard, The Differend 
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988); C. Lefort, The Political 
Forms of Modern Society, J. B. Thomason (ed.) (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1978), 
especially Part n, 'History, ideology, and the social imaginary'. 

6 Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, p. 311. 

7 J. Derrida, The Post Card: From Socrates to Freud and Beyond, A. Bass (trans.) 
(Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1987), pp. 303-4. 

8 M. Dolar, The Legacy of the Enlightenment: Foucault and Lacan, unpublished 

9 R. Young, White Mythologies: Writing, History and the West (London: Routledge, 



1990), pp. 16-17. Young argues a convincing case agains the Eurocentrism of 
historicism through his exposition of a number of 'totalizing' historical doc- 
trines, particular in the Marxist tradition, while demonstrating at the same 
time that the spatializing anti-historicism of Foucault remains equally Euro- 

10 Cf. Young, White Mythologies, pp. 116-17. 

11 T. Eagleton, The Ideology of the Aesthetic (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), p. 414. 

12 H. A. Baker, Jr, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago: Chicago Uni- 
versity Press, 1987), p. 56. 

13 C. Breckenridge and A. Appadurai, 77k Situation of Public Culture, unpub- 
lished manuscript. For the general elaboration of this thesis see various issues 
of Public Culture: Bulletin of the Project for Transnational Cultural Studies 
(University of Pennsylvania). 

14 P. Gilroy, 'One nation under a groove', in D. T. Goldberg (ed.) Anatomy of 
Racism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), p. 280. 

15 Although I introduce the term 'time-lag' more specifically in Chapters 8 and 
9, it is a structure of the 'splitting' of colonial discourse that I have been 
elaborating and illustrating - without giving it a name - from my very earliest 

16 J. Derrida, 'Des Tours de Babel', in Difference in Translation, J. F. Graham (ed.) 
(Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 174. 

17 Lefort, The Political Forms of Modem Society, p. 212. 

18 Foucault, "The art of telling the truth', p. 90. 

19 ibid., p. 93. 

20 C. L. R. James, The Black Jacobins (London: Allison and Busby, 1980), pp. 290-1. 

21 J. Habermas, 'Modernity: an incomplete project', in H. Foster (ed.) Postmodern 
Culture (London: Pluto, 1985). 

22 M. de Certeau, 'The historiographical operation', in his The Writing of History, 
T. Conley (trans.) (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), p. 91. 

23 L. Althusser, Montesquieu, Rousseau, Marx (London: Verso, 1972), p. 78. 

24 P. J. Bowler, The Invention of Progress (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), ch. 4. 

25 Gilroy, 'One nation under a groove', p. 278. 

26 C. West, 'Race and social theory: towards a genealogical materialist analysis', 
in M. Davis, M. Marable, F. Pfeil and M. Sprinker (eds) Towards a Rainbow 
Socialism (London: Verso, 1987), pp. 86 ff . 

27 C. West, The American Evasion cf Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1990), 
pp. 232-3. 

28 G. Prakash, 'Post-Orientalist Third-World histories', Comparative Studies in 
Society and History, vol. 32, no. 2 (April 1990), p. 403. 

29 Robert Young, in White Mythologies, also suggests, in keeping with my argu- 
ment that the colonial and postcolonial moment is the liminal point, or the 
limit-text, of the holistic demands of historicism. 

30 Foucault, The History of Sexuality, p. 150. 

31 M. Foucault, Foucault live, J. Johnstone and S. Lotringer (trans.) (New York: 
Semiotext(e), 1989), p. 269. 

32 B. Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983), p. 136. 

33 ibid., p. 137. 

34 ibid. 

35 ibid. 

36 P. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World (London: Zed, 1986), 
pp. 21-2. 



37 J. H. Smith and W. Kerrigan (eds) Taking Chances: Derrida, Psychoanalysis, 
Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), p. 27. 

38 A. Nandy, The Intimate Enemy (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 99. 

39 R. Williams, Problems in Materialism and Culture (London: Verso, 1980), p. 43. 
See also Chapter 8, p. 149 

40 S. Hall, The Hard Road to Renewal (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 10-11, 231-2. 

41 H. A. Baker, Jr, 'Our Lady: Sonia Sanchez and the writing of a Black Renais- 
sance', in H. L. Gates (ed.) Reading Black, Reading Feminist (New York: Merid- 
ian, 1990). 

42 W. Benjamin, Understanding Brecht, S. Mitchell (trans.) (London: New Left 
Books, 1973), pp. 11-13. I have freely adapted some of Benjamin's phrases 
and interpolated the problem of modernity in the midst of his argument on 
epic theatre. I do not think that I have misrepresented his argument. 

43 T. Morrison, "The ancester as foundation', in M. Evans (ed.) Black Women 
Writers (London: Pluto, 1985), p. 343. 

44 T. Morrison, Beloved (London: Pluto, 1985), pp. 256-7. 

45 W. E. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Signet Classics, 1969), p. 275. 

46 ibid., p. 271. 



Abbot, Paul 79-80 

Abrahams, Karl 82, 138 

African-Americans 2; and oppression 
246-7; writers 178 

agency: Arendt 189-90; community 
concept 230-1; contingent 
conditions 188-9; Das 194; Fanon 
193-4; hybridity 193; postcolonial 
237; subaltern 192-3, 205-6, 237; 
and time-lag 199 

Aida effect 137 

AIDS 6, 7 

Algeria 40-1, 63; see also: Fanon 
alienation: colonial condition 43-4; 

Sartre on 44 
Althusser, Louis 46, 142, 214; critique 

of totality 31; on despotic time 246 
ambivalence: and colonial culture 

129-38; colonial discourse 85-92; 

colonial power 97; and mimicry 86 
America 6-7; Bonaventura Hotel 220, 

240; cultural hybridity 185; Harlem 

Renaissance 144, 241; Los Angeles 

2, 217-18, 240; see also: blacks 
Anderson, Benedict 87, 154; 

community and time 157-60; 

imagined communities 6, 221; on 

nations 38, 141; on racism 248-9; 

and retroversion 252 
Appadurai, Arjun 241 
Arendt, Hannah 10; agency 189-90 
art: interstices 15; radical 19-20 
au-dela 1 

Auden, W. H. 11 

authority: and English book 107-10; 
and cultural uncanny 134-8 

Baker Jr., Houston A. 144, 178, 185, 
241, 253 

Bakht'in, Mikhail 30, 142-4, 147; and 

contingency 188-9; and 

enunciation 188 
Barrell, John 144 

Barthes, Roland 55, 69, 184, 185; on 
language 72, 180-2; on metonymy 
60; outside the sentence 180-2; sign 
as symbol 48-9; writing aloud 184 

Bayly, C. A. 208 

Bearce, G. D. 95 

Bengal 10, 133; missionaries in 92 
Benjamin, Walter 161, 170; on Brecht 

253; on language 163-4, 276-7; 

modernity 18; the present 4, 8, 233; 

state of emergency 41; on time 95; 

on translation 224, 227, 233 
Bentham, Jeremy 111 
Benveniste 134 

Berger, John 139; on Turkish worker 

'beyond' 7, 9 

Bible, the: in Hindi 108, 118; hybridity 
118-19; and India 102-4, 105-6, 
108, 116-17, 118, 121-2 

Bion, Wilfred 206 

Black Renaissance 253 

blacks 82; African Americans 2, 178, 
246-7, 253-4; Black Renaissance 
253; in Britain 155-7, 246; British 
writers 178; culture 176; Fanon on 
236-8; music and hybridity 178; 
national text 144-5; see also: Negro 

blasphemy 225-6 

Bonaventure Hotel 220, 240 

book: and colonialism 116-17; English 
102-22; see also: Bible, the 



Boon, James 128, 137 
borderlines 8, 206-8, 218-19; and 

culture 7; and Derrida 226-7; 

Gordimer 13-15; Rushdie 224; see 

also: boundaries 
boundaries 4, 59, 170; and colonial 

power 108; and culture 34, 114; 

Heidegger on 1, 5; Jameson on 220; 

Mill on 93-4; and modernity 142; 

national 99-100, 149, 153; and 

territory 99-100; and Western 

nations 149; see also: borderlines 
Bourdieu, Pierre 21 
Breckenridge, Carol 241 
Britain: blacks 155-7, 178, 246; 

elections 22; Labour Party 28; 

miner's strike 27-8; Southall Black 

Sisters 229; uprising 156-7; see also: 

India; Irish question 
Burdwan Plan 106, 117 
Burrow, John 130 
Burton, Julianne 69 
Butler, Judith 219 

Campbell, Beatrix 27 

Canning, Lord 204 

capital 215-16, 220 

capitalism 8, 20, 173, 215; connective 

narratives 6; Los Angeles 217-18; 

symbolic 21 
Casablanca 182 
CSsaire, A. 88 

chapati story 201-7; enunciative level 

Chatterjee, Partha 141-2, 194, 230, 

chicano aesthetic and hybridity 7 

children's fiction 76 

Christianity: and India 210-11; and 

social control 87; see also: Bible, the; 

India; missionary activity 
Church Missionary Society 106; see 

also: missionary activity 
cinema: racism in 68-70; Edinburgh 

conference 21 
civility and modernity 32-3 
Clapham Sect 105 
class 1, 229; Jameson on 221-2, 

229-30; negotiation 28-9 
Coetzee, John 5 
'collective will' 29 

colonial authority 110, 118-19, 121; 

hybridity 114-16 
colonial condition 40-5; alienation 

43-4; and desire 44-5; historicized 


colonial culture: ambivalence 129-38; 

see also: cultural difference; cultural 

etc.; culture; differance 
colonial desire 44-5; and doubling 88; 

metonymy of 88 
colonial discourse 120; and 

ambivalence 85-92; closure 72; 

difference 81; doubling 96-7; and 

metaphor 79, 81; and metonymy 

79, 81; and mimicry 86; narrative 

99; and power 70; and race 74-5; 

and sexuality 74-5; signifiers 89-90; 

and splitting 98-9, 131-2; 

stereotype 72; and visibility 81 
colonial fantasy 82-4 
colonial government: and writing 93; 

see also: India 
colonial identification 46 
colonial literature 93, 250-1; and 

doubling 136-7 
colonial marginality 83 
colonial moment 32-3; and 

metonymy 127 
colonial power 67; and ambivalence 

97; and boundaries 108; and 

English book 110-11; fetishism 

73-5; hybridity 112-16, 118-20; 

and lack 77; surveillance 76; 

visibility 83 
colonial space 94, 108-9, 246; and 

culture 115; dividing practices 

108-9; and Fanon 131-2; hybridity 

101; and territory 99-101 
colonial struggle 35-6 
colonial subject 42-5, 134-6; and 

Fanon 75; and stereotype 78 
colonial truth 123 
colonialism 114, 116; and book 

116-17; consciousness 61-2; and 

cultural discourse 66-84, 123-38; 

desire 44-5, 62; and difference 75, 

81; and English book 102-22; and 

empowerment 85; and Fanon 116; 

and God 117-18; hierarchization 83; 

imitation 105; marginalization 83; 

and Marxism 79; and mimicry 105; 

and miscognition 97; and 



nonsense 123-38; and otherness 97, 
123; separation 82-3; and silence 

community: concept of 3, 230-1; 

imagined 6, 221; and time 157-60 
comprador classes 20 
Conrad, Joseph 104-5, 106, 107, 

123-4, 138, 212-13, 215-16; 

Jameson on 174 
contingency 186-90 
contradiction 68 

contra-modemity 6, 173, 175, 252 

Corrie, Reverend Donald 118, 121 

Crust, Sir Edward 85 

cultural difference 1-4, 31, 32, 33-5, 
38, 50, 118, 126, 156, 162-4, 171, 
200, 203; articulation of 245; 
Foucault on 243-4; and identity 
233-4; political moment 94; time lag 

cultural discourse 66, 84, 123-8 
cultural distance 219 
cultural diversity 33 
cultural enunciation 36, 176-8, 251-2 
cultural identification 152-7, 219 
cultural modernity 157-61 
cultural otherness 114, 240 
cultural sign 174, 176-7, 215, 222 
cultural space 251-2 
cultural splitting 135-8 
cultural translation 226-7, 228-9 
cultural undecidability 37-8, 153-4 
culture 135-7; and the beyond 1; 

borderlines 7; boundaries 34, 114; 

and colonial space 115; as 

enunciation 36, 176-9; Freud on 143; 

hybridity 173; interstices 18, 127; 

and sign 174, 176-7; and survival 

172, 175 

Darwinism 248 

Darwish, Mahmoud 139 

Das, Veena 192-3, 194 

de Man, Paul 227-8 

Dean, Mitchell 194 

deferral, syntax of 95 

Delhi 102-22, 209; see also: India 

Derrida, Jacques 55, 59, 66, 98, 99, 
108-9, 127, 139, 171, 251; 'abyssal 
overlapping' 186; babelian 
performance 135-6; border lines 
226-7; diffirance 58; 'Double 

Session' 115; 'entre' 128; 'jointed 
predication' 183-4; 'occidental 
stereotomy' 182; parergon 239; on 
'supplement' 55; veil 116; writing 

desire: and colonialism 44-5, 62; and 
Lacan 31-2; and Other 44-5, 51-2; 
and racism 166 

diffirance 30, 58-9, 108; and Derrida 
58; structure of 53 

difference 64, 66-84, 114-15; and 
colonialism 75, 81; cultural 1-4, 31, 
32, 33-5, 38, 50, 118, 126, 156, 
162-4, 171, 200, 203; and 
discrimination 79-80; Freud on 115, 
149; global 218; in language 36; 
racial 67, 73; repression of 125; 
Rorty on 192; sexual 6, 53, 73; and 
signification 23; space of 109-10; 
and weather 169-70 

discourse: colonial 66-84, 85-92, 96-7, 
99, 111-12, 120, 131-2; 
construction of 27; cultural 66-84, 
123-8; English civil 106-7; minority 
227, 229-30, 246; and modernity 
244-5, 251-2; racist 78, 82, 83 

discrimination and difference 79-80 

displacement 217 

dispositif 73-4 

dissemi-nation 139, 148, 166-7 
Dolar, Mladan 240 
doubling 49-50, 52-7, 75, 136-8, 141, 
194; and colonial desire 88; and 
colonial discourse 96-7; discursive 
95; and Fanon 51; and Foucault 56, 
194, 196-7; I 234; metropolitan life 
213; poststructuralism 50 
Dow, Alexander 98 
Du Bois, W. E. 238, 247, 255 
Duff, Alexander 33, 101, 129, 133-4, 

Eagleton, Terry 64, 185, 240-1; on 

poststructuralism 183 
East India Company 95, 105-6, 119; 

see also: India 
(criture 57; see also: writing 
Edinburgh's Third Cinema 

Conference 21 
empowerment 2, 89 
English: book 102-22; civil discourse 

106-7; gentlemen 144, 145; and 



India 105-7; liberty 106; weather 
169-70; see also: Britain 

enunciation 35, 36, 108; and Bahktin 
188; and chapati story 204; and 
culture 36, 176-8; andToucault 118; 
present 178-9, 185, 250; and sign 
247; site of 55; Third Space 36-9; as 
time lag 250; and translation 228 

Eurocentrism 19-21 

evil eye 52-3, 55-6, 59; and Lacan 56 

Fanon, Frantz 9, 40-5, 55, 88; and 
agency 193-4; and Algeria 40-1, 
63; on blackness 236-8; and 
collective catharsis 90; and colonial 
space 131-2; and colonial subject 
75; and colonialism 116; and 
cultural undecidability 37-8, 153-4; 
and doubling 51; on Hegel 61-2; 
on identity 51; on Lacan 32; on 
liberation 35; on national culture 
152; on Negros 78, 238; and 'occult 
instability' 152-3; and Other 51-2, 
60-1, 62; on politicians 30; and 
racism 60; and stereotypes 72-3, 

fantasy: Freud on 89 

feminism: and patriarchy 10; and 
Rushdie affair 228-9; sexuality and 
self 175; and slavery 6; tension in 
26; women's time 153 

fetishism 68-9; and colonial power 
73-5; and hybridity 115; Freud on 
80, 132; and metonymy 77; and 
mimicry 91; and racism 53; and 
stereotype 76-84; tropes of 77 

Feuchtwang, S. 67 

finitude 32, 194; of nationness 152, 
153, 170 

fixity 75; and otherness 66 

forgetting, syntax of 160-1 

Forster, E. M. 87, 123, 124, 128; and 
India 125-7 

fortlda 1, 25, 183 

Foucault, Michel 89, 91, 109, 131, 145, 
239; and cultural difference 243-4; 
dispositif 73-4; doubling 56, 194, 
196-7; and enunciative function 
118; and Eurocentricity 243-4; and 
history 195, 196; and marginal 
integration 150-1; on modernity 
243-4; and politics 29-30; and 

postcolonial symptom 195-6; and 
power 76, 116-17; and racism 
247-8; and repeatable materiality 
22; retroversion 252; and Said 72; 
on transparency 111; on Western 
man 32 

Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth 16-17 

Framework 21 

French Revolution 243-4 

Freud, Sigmund 93, 99, 123, 156; and 
culture 143; on daydreams 181; 
and difference 115, 149; on fantasy 
89; on fetishism 80, 132; on the 
Stranger 166; on the uncanny 
136-7; unheimlich 10 

Gasch<§, R. 155 

Gates Jr., Henry Louis 178-9, 185 
gay community: sexuality and self 175 
Geertz, Clifford 59 
Gellner, Ernest 127-8, 142, 147 
gender 1; and negotiation 28-9; and 

sign 153 
Gilroy, Paul 30, 178, 185, 241 
globality 214, 215-16 
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 11-12, 

143, 147 

Gomez-Pefia, Guillermo 6-7, 218-19 
Gordimer, Nadine 5, 10, 12-13, 15, 

17; and borderlines 13-15; and 

hybridity 13-14; and interstices 14; 

and unhomeliness 13-15 
Gramsci, Antonio 29 
Grant, Sir Charles 86-8, 98, 116 
Green, Renee 3, 7, 18 
Guha, Ranajit 186-7, 192, 200, 201, 


Habermas, Jurgen 171, 239, 245 

Halhed, Nathanael 99, 138 

Hall, Stuart: alternative modernity 
252-3; arbitrary closure 179; on 
British election 22; and cultural sign 
176-7; and Labour Party 28; and 
negotiation 28-9; new ethnicity 246 

Handsworth Songs 155-7, 169-70 

Harlem Renaissance 144, 241 

Harris, Wilson 38, 213 

Hastings, Warren 95, 105 

Head, Bessie 5 

Heath, Stephen 68-9 

Hegel, Friedrich 230; Fanon on 61-2 



hegemony 29, 30 

Heidegger, Martin: on boundary 1, 5 
hierarchization: colonialism 83 
Hindi 58; see also: India 
historicism 41-2, 147, 195; Nandy on 

Hobbes, Thomas 94 
Hobsbawm, Eric 139 
Hoffman, E. T. A. 136 
Holbein, Hans 57 
Hume, David 91 

hybridity 4, 38, 58, 127, 193, 207-9, \ 
219, 242; and agency 193; 
American cultural 185; and the i 
Bible 118-19; and black music 178; 
and chicano aesthetic 7; and I 
colonial power 112-16, 118-20; and 
colonial space 101; and colonial text 
128; and cultural enunciations 
251-2; and cultural value 173; and 
fetishism 115; in Gordimer 13-14; 
and governance 134; and heresy 
226; and imagined communities 
5-6; and Indianized Gospel 118; 
and Lacan 207; as metonymy 115; 
of race 251; in Rushdie 167, 225-6; 
of sexuality 251 ( 

Ibert Bill 129 
Ideal Father 69 

identity 54-5; postcolonial 46-52; 
writing of 49-50 

Imaginary 77, 79 

imagined communities 221; 
Anderson on 6 

imaging 29 

imitation: colonial 105 

imperialist double think 129-30 

India 100-1, 129, 130, 137-8; Bengal 
10, 92, 133; and the Bible 102-4, 
105-6, 108, 115, 116-17, 118, 121-2; 
and Christianity 210-11; company 
rule 87; Delhi, siege of 209; dietary 
resistance 117-18; discursive 
uncertainty 131; Durgapuja 135; 
East India Company 95, 105-6, 
119; education 94-5; and English 
105-7; Forster's 125-7; government 
of 93-101; Lahore Chronicle 203; and 
law 116; Meerut rebellion 203, 205; 
missionary activity 92, 98-99, 101, 
102-4, 121-2, 129, 133-6, 210; 

Mughal and Brahman 98; Mutiny 
198-211; native resistance 117-19; 
postcolonial 251; Vellore Mutiny 

Indian Mutiny 198-211; and 
metonymy 203; panic, circulation 
of 203-7 

individuation 185, 206 

interdisciplinarity 163 

interstices 2, 4, 7, 9, 40, 217, 227, 230; 
and art 15; and colonial text 174; 
and community 230; cultural 18, 
127; factual and projective 24-5; 
global 217; and Gordimer 14; and 
Green 3-4; historical intermediacy 
219; and Morrison 17 

international culture 38 

internationalism 5-6 

intersubjectivity 192-3 

intertextuality 33 

invisibility 47, 59 

Irish question 229 

James, C. L R. 32, 174; on revolution 

James, Henry 9 

James, William 247 

Jameson, Fredric 140, 173, 219, 223-4; 
and ambivalence 217, 223; and 
boundaries 220; and class 221-2, 
229-30; on Conrad 174; and 
demographic pluralism 221; 
influences 216; on postmodern 
214-15; Third space 217-18 

Janmohamed, Abdul 229 

Jin, Meling 45-6, 52-3, 55 

Jussawalla, Adil 45-8, 50, 54, 58, 59 

Kant, Immanuel 243 

Kaye, Sir John 198, 201-2, 203-4, 207 

Kipling, Rudyard 87, 123 

Koran 134, 226 

Koreans 2 

Kristeva, Julia 140-1, 150, 155; and 
gendered sign 153; and women's 
time 153 

Labour Party 28 

Lacan, Jacques 52, 85, 119, 123, 134; 
and desire 31-2; and the evil eye 
56; Fanon on 32; the gap 53-4; on 
Holbein 57; on hybridity 207; and 



Imaginary 77; on mimicry 90, 
120-1; and negotiation 191; and the 
Other 124-5; outside the sentence 
184; petit objet a 58; sign and 
symbol 191; and time-lag 191; vel 
116, 125 

lack 77 

Laclau, E. 30 

Lahore Chronicle 203 

Lai, Munshee Mohan 209 

language: Barthes on 72, 180-2; 
Benjamin on 163-4, 226-7; and 
difference 36; foreignness of 163, 
164-9; and occidental spaces 182; 
perplexity of 170; stereophony of 
180-2; and theory 19, 20, 30 

Lefort, Claude 146-7, 149, 161, 239; 
and bourgeois society 163; and 
ideology 242 

lesbian sexuality 219 

Levi-Struass, Claude 150, 159, 163 

Levinas, Emmanuel 15-17 

liberty: English 106 

literature and otherness 12 

living perplexity 157 

Lloyd, David 229 

Locke, John 48, 86, 94, 116 

Long, Edward 90, 91 

Lords, House of 93-4 

Los Angeles 2, 217-18, 240 

L'Ouverture, Toussaint 244, 254 

Lukacs, Georg 230 

Lyall, Sir Alfred 123 

Lyotard, Jean Francois 56-7, 150, 

Macaulay, Thomas 95, 96, 98, 106; 

and mimicry 87 
McDowell, Deborah 178, 185 
Macintyre, Alisdair 225, 239 
Maine, Sir Henry 129, 130, 134 
marginality 139-70, 152-7; colonial 83; 

and Foucault 150-1 
Marx, Karl 83, 164 

Marxism 247; and colonialism 79; and 

materiality 216; and 

poststructuralism 215; tension in 26 
Mason, Philip 203 
meaning, circulation of 200; 

production of 36 
media and global technology 172 
Merivale, Sir Herman 97 

Messeh, Anund 102-4, 105-7, 117, 
120; and colonial authority 121 

metatheorizing 19 

metonymy 54-7, 60, 64; Barthes on 
60; and colonial desire 44-5; and 
colonial discourse 79, 81; and 
colonial moment 127; and 
contingency 186; de Man on 227-8; 
and fetishism 77; and hybridity 
115; and Indian Mutiny 203; and 
mimicry 119-20; of presence 89-90, 
120; and representation of people 
155; and stereotype 77 

metropolis 223; and colony 212; and 
doubling 213 

Metz 80-1 

Mexican-Americans 2 
Michael X 156 

migration: postcolonial 4, 224 
Mill, J. S. 93, 96, 97-8, 133; on 

boundaries 93-4; on political 

judgement 23-4 
Mills, James 87, 98 
mimicry 85-92, 120-1; ambivalence of 

86; and colonial discourse 86; 

colonialism 105; and disavowal 86; 

and double vision 88; and 

fetishism 91; Lacan on 90, 120-1; 

and literature 87; and Macaulay 87; 

and metonymy 119-20; and 

mockery 86; postcolonial 167; and 

scopic drive 89; surveillance 89; 

visibility of 89 
miner's strike 27-8 

minorities 4, 21, 152-7; and discourse 
157, 227, 229-30, 246; and 
metropolis 223; and Other 52 

missionary activity 33-4, 98-9, 117, 
121-2, 129; in Bengal 92; civilizing 
105, 106; and Divine Truth 101; in 
India 92, 98-9, 101, 102-4, 121-2, 
129, 133-6, 210 

mockery 86 

modernity 236-42; alternative 252; 
Benjamin on 18; boundaries of 142; 
and civility 32-3; and colonial 
literature 123-7; cultural 157-61; 
discourse of 244-5, 251-2; 
disjunctive present 247; Foucault on 
243-4; historical 214, 239; as 
interrogation 244-5; national 147; 
pedagogical function 161; and 



politics 32-3; postcolonial 241-2, 
253, 254-5; postructuralism 32; and 
sign 254; temporal break 245; and 
time lag 246-56; Western 240; 
writing of 250; see also: contra- 

MOMA (Museum of Modern Art, 
New York) 245 

Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat 
98, 116 

Morrison, Toni 5-6, 10, 11, 12-13, 
15-18, 198-9, 213, 251, 254, 255 
Mouffe, C. 36 

Nachtraglichkeit 219 

Naipaul, V. S. 87, 88, 104-5; and 

English literature 107 
Nandy, Ashis 200, 251-2 
national difference and weather 


nationness 140-6, 154, 160; Anderson 
on 38, 141; black 144-5; and 
boundaries 99-100, 149, 153; 
expression of 142-3; Fanon on 152; 
finitude of 151, 153, 171; and 
splitting 148, 150, 214-15 

negation and negotiation 228 

negotiation 25-6, 38-9, 191, 192; and 
class 28-9; and gender 28-9; Hall 
on 28-9; interrogating 29; Lacan on 
191; of meaning 183; and negation 
228; political 24-5; space 184-5 

Negro 50, 81; Fanon on 78, 239; and 
Harlem Renaissance 144, 241; 
phobic image 63; and Western 
sexuality 41 

neo-imperialism 20 

'newness' 7 

Nietzsche, Friedrich 105, 164 
non-sentence 181-2 
Nott, Sir William 209 

Occidental: self-understanding 239 

Orient and postmodern world 46 

Orientalism 71-4 

Orientalist: education 105; power 
71-4; see also: postorientalist 

Orwell, George 87 

Osorio, Pepon 7, 18 

Other 31, 66-84, 98, 246; and desire 
44-5, 51-2; Fanon on 51-2, 60-1, 
62; Lacan on 124-5; and minorities 

52; postcolonial text 46-8; silent 
166; and Western man 32; see also 
otherness: and colonialism 97, 123; 
cultural 114, 240; fixity 66; mimicry 
91; mode of representation 68; 
place of 109-10; postcolonial 
criticism 173; racial 67-8; sexual 67; 
study of literature 12; and A Touch 
of Evil 68 

Paley, William 17 
Pannwitz, Rudolf 228 
paranoia 100-1 

'past-present' 7; see also: present 
Pateman, Carole 10 
patriarchy and feminism 10 
people: space of 146-52 
perplexity of language 170 
Perrot, Michel 111 
Phallic Mother 69 

politics: and rhetoric 23; and theory 

25-31; and writing 21-2 
Pompidou Centre - 245 
'post' 1, 4, 18 

postcolonialism 212-29; a 59-60; 
agency 237; belatedness 237-8; 
condition 53; criticism 6, 171-97, 
247; discourse 212; Foucault 195-6; 
history 6, 107; identity 46-52; India 
251; Irish question 229; literature 
166-70, 231-3; migration 4, 224; 
mimicry 167; modernity 241-2, 
253, 254-5; and Other 46-8; 
perspective 141-2; and 
poststructuralism 64; regions 174; 
situation 152-7; struggle 33; 
subject 59; world 21; writing 241 

postmodern world: and orient 46; 
self/other 48; space 212-35 

postmodernism 4, 171-97, 239, 250-1; 
and cultural signs 222; discourse 
54; Jameson on 214-15; and literary 
theory 239; minority discourse 
229-30; new times 176-80; theory 

postorientalist histories 247 
poststructuralism 48; discourse 57; 
doubling 50; Eagleton on 183; 
denture 57; Marxism 215; and 
modern 32; post colonialism 64 
Potts, Archdeacon 99, 121 



Poulantzas, N. 147 
'Pouvoir/Savoir" 71 
Powell, Enoch 156 
Prakash, Gyan 247 

present 8, 9; Benjamin on 4, 8, 9, 233; 

and enunciation 178-9, 185, 250; of 

utterance 193 
Projection 100 
psychic anxiety 213-14 

race 78, 236-56; and colonial 
discourse 74-5; difference 67, 73; 
hybridity of 251; Otherness 67-8 

racism 60-1, 75-6, 91, 226, 236, 

247- 51, 253, 254-5; Anderson on 

248- 9; British uprising 156-7; in 
cinema 68-70; and desire 166; 
discourse 78, 82, 83; Fanon on 60; 
and fetishism 53; Foucault on 
247-8; in Rushdie 228; stereotypes 

radical art 19-20 
Reich, Annie 61 
reinscription 191, 192 
Renan, Ernest 160, 161 
repeatable materiality 22 
representation 2 
Retamar, Roberto 173 
retroversion 249; Foucault on 252 
Rhenius C. T. E. 98-9 
Rhodes, Cecil 123 
Rive, Richard 5 

Rorty, Richard 46, 49, 127, 182, 239; 
and difference 192; 'mirror of 
nature' 233; on solidarity 235 

Rose, Jacqueline 44 

rumour 200, 202, 203 

Rushdie, Salman 2, 5, 18, 167-9, 
223-9; and blasphemy 225-6; and 
borderline 224; feminism 228-9; 
fundamentalist reaction 225; 
hybridity 167, 225-6; racism 228 

Sahlins-Marshall 37, 128 

Said, Edward 46, 85-6, 90, 105, 116, 
140-1, 147; and the copula 71; and 
Foucault 72; and orientalist power 
71-4; and postcolonial regions 174 

Samad, Yunus 226 

Sanchez, Sonia 253, 255 

Sartre, Jean-Paul 220; and alienation 
44; on intellectuals 30 

scopic drive 76, 82; and mimicry 89 
scopic view 79 
Screen 21, 69-70 
Sekula, Alan 8 
self/other 41, 54, 60, 148; 

postmodernism 48 
Sen, Sunil 187, 201-2 
separation and colonialism 82-3 
Serbia 5 

f sexuality: and colonial discourse 74-5; 
I and difference 6, 53, 73; feminism 
175; and gay community 175; 
hybridity 251; lesbian 219; Negro 
and Western 41; otherness 67 
Shakuntala 11 
skin 78, 82, 92 

'Sign: arbitrariness of 172; and culture 
\ 174, 176-7, 215, 222; and 
\ enunciation 247; gendered 153; 

I modernity 254; and symbol 191; 

I symbolic 48-9, 52; and temporal 

Lbreak 191 

signification: and colonial discourse 

89-90; and difference 23 
silence 123-7 

slavery 16-18, 86, 97, 145, 199, 244, 
251; and closure 178; and feminism 
6; Morrison 6; right to signify 233 

sly civility 93-101, 195 

Smirnoff, Victor 120 

social difference 4 

Southall Black Sisters 229 

Southey, Robert 102 

Spence, Louise 69-70 

Spillers, Hortense 178, 185 

Spivak, Gayatri 20, 174, 183-4 

splitting 216-17, 240; and colonial 
discourse 98-9, 131-2; cultural 
135-8; of national subject 148, 150, 

Sri Lanka, theatre in 5 

Stam, Robert 69-70 

Stephens, Fitzjames 100-1, 129, 132-3 

stereotype 66-7; children's fiction 76; 
colonial discourse 72; colonial 
subject 78; defined 81-2; Fanon on 
72-3, 75-84; and fetishism 76-84; 
and metonymy 77; and racism 91; 
as suture 80 

Stokes, Eric 89, 124, 202, 204, 207-8 

subalternity 145, 192-3; agency 192-3, 
205-6, 237; narratives 241 



subject as agent 186-9; return of 

surveillance 98, 99; and colonial 

power 76; and mimicry 89 
Swadeshi movement 10 

Tagore, Rabindranath 10 
Taylor, Charles 177, 213 
territory 99-101 

theory 19-39; 20-40; and academy 32; 

and cultural sign 215; and elite 

language 19, 30; Eurocentricity 31; 

location of event 22; and new 

languages 20; and politics 25-31; 

and postmodernism 239; as power 

ploy 20-1; theoreticism 20 
Third space 36-9; Jameson on 217-18; 

and temporality 219 
time: Althusser on 246; Anderson on 

157-60; Benjamin on 95; and 

community 157-60; Lacan on 191; 

Women's 153 
time lag 191-2, 198, 199; of cultural 

difference 237; and enunciation 

250; of modernity 246-56 
timelessness 254 
„ translation 38; Benjamin on 224, 227, 


transparency 109-11; Foucault on 111 
Traviata effect 128; moment 129 
truth, public 23-4 

uncertainty 203 

unhomeliness 10, 12; Freud on 10; 
and Gordimer 13-15 

unisonance 94, 159 

Veneuse, Jean 60 
voyeurism 68-9 

Walcott, Derek 231-5 

Warburton, Bishop 91 

Ward, Humphry 129 

Weber, Samuel 86, 214 

Welles, Orson 68-9 

West 21; Foucault on 32; and memory 
166; modernity 240; 'occidental 
stereotomy' 182; Other 32; self- 
understanding 239; sexuality 41 

West, Cornell 176, 229, 246 

whiteness 76, 96 

Williams, Bernard 125 

Williams, Raymond 148, 252; 
Tcnowable community' 221 

Williams, Sherley Anne 178 

women: and miner's strike 27-8; see 
also: feminism 

Women Against Fundamentalism 229 

World Literature 12 

writing: African American 178; aloud 
183-4, 186; and colonialism 93, 
250-1; Derrida 154; icriture 57; and 
government of India 93; of identity 
49-50; and modernity 250; and the 
nation 145-6; and politics 21-2; 
postcolonial 241; the world 12 

Young, Robert 240 

Zizek, S. 184